Philosophy

Is Creating Content the Elephant on the Web?

IMG_1214 Recently I joined a twitter chat #sshour (social selling hour) and the subject of content curation was being discussed. I too have been busy organising my content stream, selecting the articles I enjoy reading and sharing them on my preferred platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. And I love scheduling them using Buffer.

And my reason for doing this? Thought leadership? Just sharing ‘stuff’, which my connections might like to read? Wanting more followers, likes and comments?

Does anyone really give a damn?

And what's our outcome? Is it more engagement with our buyers, receiving more enquiries for our products and services? Or is it ’FOMO’,  fear of missing out? Or ’FOBLO’, fear of being left out?

Social Media has a lot to answer for. It’s changing human behaviour across the planet. We never shared so many intimate details of our lives, so publicly. And as we are so obsessed with sharing content surely we are trying to look interesting, relevant and impressive to our connections and followers?

No wonder there are 630 million search results on google to my question ‘how often should I blog?’

I asked the question last year: ‘Do Social Networks Sell Drugs?’

I know it’s a great feeling when your article/blog or your shared post gets noticed by your followers. Ever time this happens somewhere deep inside of us we say, ‘Wow she/he loves me’.

And by just pushing out more and more content and posting regularly, are we hoping that we’ll get noticed by some big shot CEO who will approach us to come and do some consultancy or maybe even work for them? There's news there too for us. They aren't reading them.

I believe there are two tribes who do all the blogging and posting. Folks that are self-employed and are making it part of their own personal marketing strategy or folks that work for big business and their job is in marketing anyway.

Everyone in between either don’t really care or are just too busy at work to bother.

I’d love to hear your opinion. Are we overdoing it and heading for blogging/posting burnout?

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Are You Afraid of Rejection on Social Networks?

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You should be...

Many more social networkers are being more discerning in deciding who they connect with. I'm sure by now you've heard the saying: ’you’re network is your net worth’.

It’s more important for networkers to show off 'WHO' they are connected to, compared to 'HOW' many.

What's needed is some {old-fashioned} personal branding. If you're reading this then you're already a personal brand and you might not have realised it yet. It doesn't mean you have to be a Rock Star or some YouTube celebrity, although of course it would help. What's a personal brand? I'm not talking about celebrities, it's anyone these days, who has a profile on a social network, a blog or any other profile that resides on the web, like YOU! Personal branding 2.0 is alive and kicking. Anyone nowadays has a voice, whether, you Tweet, Facebook, Google Plus or LinkedIn, you and anyone else can share their inner feelings and thoughts about any national or any international affairs. Plus your opinion on companies, their customer service and their products and services, counts. Potentially you can cause massive damage to reputations of companies or individuals.

With this power also comes great responsibility.

I am assuming that your reputation matters to you and this means, you should take it seriously. Anyone with an internet connection can interrogate your presence on the web. And as you're probably reading this on LinkedIn, a search result of your LinkedIn profile will very likely appear on page 1 of Google when someone searches for your name.

In 1 keystroke any searcher can learn everything about you in a just a few seconds.

Doesn't this warrant a great presentation of your personal brand? It absolutely does. For the past few years we've all rushed to join the latest social network in 'fear of missing out' (#fomo) or ensuring that as a minimum we've got a profile in case someone happens to search for us there. And in that rush we have proliferated our profiles across these networks causing a huge amount of inconsistency. Here are just 4 items from my audit checklist for you to review and examine how you're doing with your own personal brand:

  1. Do you have different profile photos on different networks? Most of us are still super critical of the way we appear on photographs. This means we scour our photo library picking out the best photo that we perceive will represent us in the best light. What happens is you may select a photo of yourself in business attire and place that on LinkedIn. You’ll find another one from your holidays maybe with family and friends in a T-shirt, crop yourself and place that on Facebook. Or maybe a family picture and use that on Google plus or Twitter. And when you are developing your personal brand this type of inconsistency completely confuses the viewer.
  2. Are you using the company logo instead of a profile photo? If you are a big brand great, push your recognisable logo if need be. However if you are a small or micro business, using your logo is THE most impersonal thing you can do. And using a logo on your personal profile on LinkedIn is just plain silly and actual against LinkedIn's terms, which you agreed to, remember?
  3. Do you write a different ’about’ section on each profile? It's one of the easiest errors we can make. To become a recognisable personal brand you need to have consistency as readers will scan your profile and at least pick up a few keywords from your ’about section’ with an opportunity to remember them. If they vary greatly it will lead to readers being confused and not remembering anything tangible from your ’about section’. I know the no. of words allowed also varies greatly, which means that brevity counts.
  4. Are you using different header images across networks? Everyone has gone header crazy. Plus the sizes differ hugely. Furthermore how the header interacts with the profile photo and how it appears on mobile devices is another factor that complicates things further. Use your graphic designer to help you get the best look and resolution.

Take a few minutes and review your social networks and adjust them to be closer in line with each other. After all your personal brand is important to you, it's time to take it seriously.

@stayingaliveuk

ps. A great business friend, Richard Tubb @tubblog, asked me to review his media branding and this inspired me to write this article. Thanks Richard!

How Do You Test Competence?

The biggest challenge facing the UK economy is 'Skills Competence' and not 'Skills Shortage'. Everyone always looks at the glass as being half empty instead of half full. So focussing on 'Skills Competence' is better than focussing on 'Skills Shortage', don't you think? Competence is the holy grail, because assessing someone’s competence allows you to directly know whether they are equipped to do the job or not. We have a competence issue in organisations not a skills issue.

Competence: the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.

Appraisals, Annual reviews, Objective setting, 360 degree reviews or whatever your name is for reviewing someone’s performance doesn't assess competence. You can only test competence by asking the employee directly if they know the answer to a very specific set of questions that relate to ’what’ they need to know as an absolute minimum to do the job competently.

In every organisation things change. New products or services, new managers, changing procedures and processes, re-organisation which causes job changes, new sales and customer service processes, etc.

Job competency is always under pressure when change happens in an organisation and that's all the time.

To truly understand your employees’ competence you need to test them, regularly. Once you know their competence levels, you can do something about it.

Deploying learning materials in large silos (Learning Management Systems) or any other method of e-learning will allow you to teach skills but not competence. When you teach just skills, you have no idea if the learner has remembered the new skill and whether they've actually become competent in that skill. Indeed it takes time to become competent in any skill and usually it takes repetition of carrying out that skill before you become competent.

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We all know the following 4 phases of learning something new, like learning to drive a car:

1. Unconscious incompetence 2. Conscious incompetence 3. Conscious competence 4. Unconscious competence

The 4th phase is where we want our employees to get to as soon as possible, whether it's with Onboarding (Induction) or learning new skills/knowledge.

Every minute, hour, day, week or month that we take to get them as competent as possible, means the organisation is potentially losing money or not growing as fast.

The Psychology of Study goes as far back as 1932, when Mace wrote his book 'Psychology of Study' and the idea of ’spaced repetition’ was first muted. Earlier still we had Ebbinghaus who told us about the forgetting curve. It tells us that for centuries we've been debating how we can get humans to remember more than how to walk.

Let's take learning languages. If you've ever tried to learn a new language, then you'll know that only by repetition will you become competent in that language. Using flash cards are an even better way of learning to remember a new language. Put the English on one side and the translation on the other. Start with 50 cards on day one and when you know you have mastered a few, take those out of the pack and repeat the others. Keep going until you've mastered them all. It's fairly basic but it works.

It's the only way to become competent in that language. Of course you may decide to repeat it in 3 weeks, because unless you are using these sentences regularly, the chances are that you will forget them.

Take this concept into any skill in any organisation where you require it to become a competence in the person who is performing it and you will rapidly and successfully increase competence throughout the organisation.

Deploying this method is now easier then ever, allowing employees to become more competent through the power of mobile. Not only can you test competence and teach new skills, you can report on the overall competence of a group, a department, a division or the overall organisation. It allows you to succession plan, recruit for competence gaps, evaluate competence levels for new projects. It even tests the individuals who took the course, at the point when they are deemed to be ready to be tested over the phone by a real person. A great motivator for the learner to get up to speed and learn properly.

What if such a tool was available today? What a difference it would make to UK "Skills Competence', to the UK economy, to UK competitiveness, to the Economy of Organisations and especially to the people that work in them.

If any of the concepts above touched a nerve with you and you can see an application inside your organisation, please get in touch with me in the first instance. We’ll get a proof of concept rolling out for you within hours and start your organisation’s journey towards 'Skills Competence' quickly.

Wishing you massive success always.

uk.linkedin.com/in/stayingaliveuk/

@stayingaliveuk

 

Is your Social Media Policy liked?

I read with interest a recent newsletter with guidelines and policy on electronic communication and social media. Electronic communication has been around for a while and whilst it’s good to be reminded about what should and shouldn't be done, especially for new starters and young workers who may not be so used to email, in general it’s well established and most people know what is and isn't allowed. Social Media though is a different matter all together. The first question we have to ask ourselves is ’Why is Social Media so popular?’ Well because it releases dopamine in the brain, inside our pleasure/reward centre and that in turn makes it addictive. I wrote a paper on this last year, ’Do Social Networks Sell Drugs?’.

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As it’s addictive, it means for many it's almost impossible to leave it alone. Think about it, whenever someone, likes, shares, retweets, follows, invites, accepts, pokes or any other social network activity that has become part of daily behaviour, we feel good about ourselves. We feel like someone approves of us, in a world where mostly we receive criticism, it means we feel like we are getting praise. And of course that feels good and if it feels good, it becomes addictive. Especially young people, who get criticised by parents and teachers alike day in day out. Therefore when they are on social media they (mostly) will get positive messages. I know it has its down side too.

So now we need to think this through, because if it’s addictive and people can't leave it alone, will we still be as harsh on them when we catch them accessing their personal social media networks, whilst at work? Or do we accept, actually this is part of the modern world now and very little we can do to fight it.

Research from 2012 suggests that smart phone owners check their devices 150 times per day, about once every 6 minutes. But we're now in 2014, so we can safely assume it has gone up significantly? Americans aged 18-64 who use social networks say they spend an average of 3.2 hours per day doing so, according to research conducted in November 2012 by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (OTX). (http://styin.me/1b1O73t). I'm sure the UK is not far behind them and that figure will have gone up too.

flickr | rockerictic

One way to allow your employees to engage in social media activities is to supply them with an internal social media platform, which connects everyone inside the business, across geographical boundaries, allowing everyone to learn from each other and to collaborate on projects. Also allowing colleagues to like and comment on posts. This way you are distracting them from their personal networks, by allowing them to still engage in similar activities and satisfy their addiction. Actually personal Social Media, is allowing millions of workers to train themselves in order to assist their learning inside the workplace. Think about it, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have provided free online training. Make sense?

Of course there have to be some rules, but we have to recognise that there is a bigger picture and we need to be conscious of that too.

Wishing you success always.

3 Must Do's to Win Business and Get More Leads

flickr | draken413o LinkedIn connection Mark Langston of Crystal Thought asked me to contribute to a blog he's writing. He wanted '3 Must Do's to Win Business and Get More Leads'.

Well that's a tough one, I can think of loads. Its easier to say what 3 things you must do when you get up in the morning then decide which are the '3 Must Do's to Win Business and Get More Leads'. Bathroom, Shower, Breakfast and sometimes in reverse order!

In my view the following 'Must Do's' are quite basic and of course as we know the basics are often forgotten.

So here goes;

1. Stop talking about yourself and start listening!

You have two ears, two eyes and JUST one mouth. A common mistake I see all the time is over-promotion. STOP! When you engage with someone either face to face or online, listen, watch and learn. Its in the stories they tell you, they share the secrets of what they need. SHUT UP! Do not be tempted to jump in and solution sell at the first opportunity of hearing their need. It could well be a false direction they are trying to send you in and after all nobody will truly say what they are struggling with. That would be too obvious, too revealing, too embarrassing and definitely not English. All is actually OK, if the government just got their act together, we would be OK. DON'T! Get drawn into politics, focus on the job in hand and ask the most important question, which is; 'What Else?'

2. How can you assist in ways that are not profitable for you but profitable for your prospect?

Business is built on trust and the fastest way to build trust is to do something for someone without expecting anything back in return. When doing your listening whether face to face or online, listen out for clues as to who they wish to meet and who their ideal prospect is. In fact if they don't give you those clues, which actually most people don't, then you MUST ask the question. It is highly probable that you know someone, who knows someone and before you know you could make an introduction. With the power of LinkedIn this is now very easy to do. Its YOUR job to deliver the potential prospect to your prospect. Trust is built on what you DO for people, not what you COULD do for them.

3. Its a numbers game, but they don't add up until you get personal!

Yes indeed, you have to kiss a few frogs before you find the ideal prospect, however you also need to get to know your network better than you actually do. In my experience you have an intimate network of only 150 people. I call these the 'Power 150'. These are the ones you need to leverage more than you are actually doing. Can you tell me what these 150 people do, who they want to get in front of and what their personal aspirations are? Whether you meet them face to face or via a video call, it doesn't matter, but get intimate, get to know who they are and what their business is about. They are the ones who will help you find the business that you need. As humans we will remember those that make the most noise. I'm not saying be noisy, but definitely be there alongside them, so they notice you. So now go and make a list of your 'Power 150'!

To get more FREE tips on social selling you can visit; http://stayingaliveuk.com/linkedinstinct/

Success!

Have You Ever Studied Ants?

flickr | samantha henneke I was recently in Greece and with temperatures in the 30’s, it's best to take it easy lie by the pool and observe the world around you, OK maybe people watch sometimes!

However even people watching gets boring, so whilst resting on my sun bed in the shade, I started studying the floor beneath me and to my amazement saw this fast moving highway of very small ants. Now usually in hot countries ants are very big, but these weren't and that made them all the more interesting.

As I studied them, I noticed that although their movements appeared random, many were carrying food crumbs back to their colony, which had entrances along a short section of a raised plant border wall. One by one several of these very efficient creatures were collecting these crumbs from all around the pool and taking this very important food stuff back to their colony.

By the way none of them actually ate the food on their journey back, which if you saw how far they were travelling, you would not have blamed them if they had. Now if this was a human doing this, ’collecting free food’, the chances are that it would have been eaten by the time they had completed the journey back.

I also noticed to my amazement that with larger crumbs 2 or even 3 ants would work together to carry it, as it was too big for just one.

This gave me an idea, next time someone in my party came back with cake at tea-time, I would use one of the crumbs and give those hard working ants a challenge. A super large crumb to see how they would manage this.

Have a look and see what happened, I recorded it on video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChZGj9BEQRk

What did I learn?

Ants are ’Team Players’, one ant who passes the crumb and checks it out, decides to start moving it and immediately another ant starts assisting, and then another and another until I counted 12 ants moving a massive crumb. Nobody said, ’that’s not my job’ or ’I’m busy doing something else, or ’its not in my job spec’. They just did it because they know that one ant will never manage it on their own and therefore they just started helping out. The ants who joined in just happened to be passing by, they weren't called from the colony, didn't get an email and nobody checked their calendar to see if they were available.

For me it was just the best possible demonstration of excellent team-work. Wow if business could learn just one lesson from ants and if employees and HR teams could stop their compartment thinking, what a different world we would have around us.

Each morning a few scouts would be up early looking for anything that they might have missed and as the day moved on and more holiday makers sat around the pool, eating and drinking, more ants came out scouting the neighbourhood. Obviously they had developed their knowledge that more crumbs would be available later in the day.

Accordingly more troops were scouting in the afternoon.

So here are 3 takeaways from this story:

  1. Be open to helping out anyone in your wider community or organisation, without being asked for help, ’Just Do It’.
  2. If there is a big task or project happening, go and ask if you can help out. They probably will say ’no thanks’ but make sure you insist, even if it is to make the coffee!
  3. Teach your kids or colleagues the power of team work and share the story of ants. I found this great film on YouTube, which will explain and share the story of ants and their incredible behaviour. Watch it together with your kids or colleagues. Teach them how they can adopt the same approach in life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-gIx7LXcQM

Success!

Do Social Networks Sell Drugs?

As published in The Non-Significant Journal of Business & Consumer Psychology Issue 2.1 - Spring 2013

Background

In recent years, an increasing number of scholars have sought to study and measure the impact of social networks (social media).

Social media network connection concept
Social media network connection concept
  • A 2010 study by the University of Maryland suggested that social networks may be addictive, and that using social networks may lead to a "fear of missing out", also known by the acronym "FOMO" by many students.
  • It has been observed that Facebook is now the primary method for communication by college students in the U.S.
  • According to Nielsen, global consumers spend more than six hours on social networking sites.
  • Consumers continue to spend more time on social networks than on any other category of sites—roughly 20% of their total time online via personal computer (PC), and 30% of total time online via mobile.
  • Tim Berners-Lee contends that the danger of social networking sites is that most are silos and do not allow users to port data from one site to another. He also cautions against social networks that grow too big and become a monopoly as this tends to limit innovation.
  • According to several clinics in the UK, social media addiction is a certifiable medical condition. One psychiatric consultant claims he treats as many as one hundred cases a year.

Introduction

Networks are not new; they have existed since the very first existence of cells on planet earth. It's quite amazing to know that our cells work together in networks to achieve tasks together. One such example is wound healing. For wound healing to occur, white blood cells and cells that ingest bacteria move to the wound site to kill the microorganisms that cause infection. At the same time fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) move there to remodel damaged structures. This is a wonderful example of how cells behave together in networks.

Even our brain neurons wire together in associative networks to create our memories and skills. Cell division even mirrors the way that networks grow.

We humans are no exception in nature. We exist and flourish as part of networks. We seem to have some inborn instinct to behave in this way, actively involving ourselves in many different systems of connections.

Thumbs up like button on white background.
Thumbs up like button on white background.

The first network we experience in our lives is the immediate family, where we learn how to be social by watching our parents and siblings. Beyond that, we soon learn how to ‘network’ with other groups of adults and children. We then start our social journey by joining many different networks, the nursery, primary and secondary school, the college and university and then our work and leisure networks.

The size, membership and complexity of these networks may grow or contract during our lifetime, but they always remain an important part of our experience. There are several theories put forward to explain this networking phenomenon, from Social Comparison Theory,Role Theory,Homogeneous Theory and the Social Identity approach. The evidence seems to point to the conclusion that networking is in part driven by our genetic make-up.

Tribes

These networks have a major impact on our lives. They determine how we see the world and how we see ourselves; we constantly monitor how we are accepted in our various networks.

Perhaps another word for these networks could be 'tribes'.

Belonging to a 'tribe', gives us the feeling that we are part of ‘something bigger’ then we are. It helps to give our lives more meaning and significance. The belief that you belong to a ’tribe’ is reinforcing, as it encourages you to relate more strongly with the other individuals in that ’tribe’. It helps with the identity that you have given yourself as you became an adult.

When your ’tribe’ behaves in the same way that you do, you will consider them the same as ’you’ and somehow feel a connection. It triggers an automatic approval, telling yourself that they are OK as they behave in a similar way to you.

The way that this translates in social networks is that individuals will follow people on twitter, send each other friends’ requests on Facebook or ask to be connected inside professional networks, like LinkedIn. We may have never met the person but for some reason we want to share intimate details of our lives with them.

Facebook
Facebook

Never in the world have we seen this kind of behaviour before. It did not exist before social networks appeared on the worldwide web. You could not have imagined walking up to strangers, people you have never met and suddenly start sharing your personal life with them. It just didn’t happen. We as humans need to trust someone first before we will share personal details. In social networks personal details are being shared all the time without any apparent shyness or reservation.

And the only reason this happens is because we have connected at some level with this stranger in a social network where their behaviour mirrors our own. In social networks we behave for around 80% of the time exactly the same way as everybody else. Just the act of being in a social network together, posting updates, sharing content means you are doing the same as everyone else and that makes you part of that tribe.

Significance

Social networks give us a platform for significance. According to Anthony Robbins, significance is one of the 6 human needs as per his Human Needs Psychology model.  We all have a need to be significant in our lives and when family and friends, like, comment or respond to our activity inside social networks, we feel good, we feel loved, we feel significant.

Dopamine is closely associated with reward-seeking behaviours, such as approach, consumption, and addiction. Recent research suggests that the firing of dopaminergic neurons is motivational as a consequence of reward-anticipation. This hypothesis is based on the evidence that, when a reward is greater than expected, the firing of certain dopaminergic neurons increases, which consequently increases desire or motivation towards the reward. This is why social networks are so addictive and why games inside social networks (e.g. Farmville) are so popular. Equally though, aggression is also evident in social networks and recent studies indicate that aggression may also stimulate the release of dopamine.

Why do humans enjoy social networks?

Humans are social beings, they thrive around other humans and other humans make them thrive. Without human interaction we have no reason to exist. Compassion and love is a ready built-in operating system, which we are born with. Without the love we experience on the day of our birth we would probably die. Throughout our lives we crave that love and connection with other humans. Especially as those humans are the same as us or expressed in another way, exist in the same tribe as us.

Anthony Robbins’ Human Need Psychology says that one of our 6 human needs is love and connection15 .

Physical social networks, whether it’s the family unit, our workplace unit or other tribal social networks, which we belong to for our sport, hobbies and political activities, all exist because there is some love and connection that takes place.

Virtual social networks via the web also exist for the same reason. The creators of these networks have been able to create certain activities to allow us to feel love and connection with a connection or a tribe that exists inside these networks. Whether it is ’liking’, ’commenting’, ’sharing’, ’re-tweeting’, ’favouriting’, ’re-posting’, the user feels good when this takes place or in other words they do feel loved. This is very addictive and when dopamine is released in the brain, we want to experience more of this feeling16 .

As human beings we also want to give out love and this is another one of the human needs and is called ’contribution’. And therefore in social networks we also like to contribute to our fellow human beings.

The way that this translates inside of virtual social networks is no different. For example by actively ’liking’, ’sharing’, ’commenting’, it makes us feel good and drives us to do more of it, whenever the recipient rewards us in some way for taking this selfless action. And guess what happens more dopamine is released and the more addictive it becomes.

Put on top of that Ivan Pavlov’s dog experiment

and ’ding, ding, woof, woof’, every time our mobile device makes that familiar notification noise, we know that this could mean more dopamine and more love, so we’ll react instantly to the need of that possibility.

How social learning grows networks

In 1961 Albert Bandura conducted a controversial experiment known as the ‘Bobo-Doll ‘experiment, to study patterns of behaviour associated with aggression. Bandura hoped that the experiment would prove that aggression can be explained, at least in part, by social learning theory, and that similar behaviours were learned by individuals modelling their own behaviour after the actions of others. The experiment was criticised by some on ethical grounds, for training children towards aggression.

Bandura’s results from the Bobo Doll Experiment changed the course of modern psychology, and were widely credited for helping shift the focus in academic psychology from pure behaviourism to cognitive psychology. The experiment is among the most lauded and celebrated of psychological experiments.

Penguin points
Penguin points

This study can be viewed as quite significant and why social networks grow so fast. When we see the activities of others in social networks, we start to wonder if we're missing out on something and whether we need to start involving ourselves. When we then discover that our tribe, (whether family, work, hobby or other tribe), is doing the same, we will stay and investigate it further. And that is when we start enjoying shots of dopamine in our brain and when the addiction of this social network interaction starts working.

CAUTION: NOT SUITABLE FOR MINORS

Conclusion

Social networks are here to stay, they've always existed and whether they are physical or virtual they are an important piece of our human make-up. My personal view too is that back in the times when humans went through war and terror they would draw closer to each other and grow closer socially. For example, during World War II, it was easier to connect with our fellow humans as we were all going through the same terror and strife. We would look out for one and other and support each other.

Basically we were giving each other a lot of love.

Bird Doodles
Bird Doodles

As the human population has grown and spread across the globe, some of the physical connections may have been lost. Virtual social networks have allowed us to make that re-connection with each other and in fact get in touch with people who we may not have seen for many years.

Of course this makes us feel loved and appreciated too.

And now, because these virtual networks show us how many fans, followers, and friends we have, this is proof to the world and ourselves how popular we are.  We take this metric as an important measure of how many people approve of us or rather love us, a kind of ‘love-o-meter’!

...or in Bryan Ferry’s - Roxy Music words...”Love is the drug I’m thinking of...”

 

Do You Follow The Crowd?

If you are in business or working for a business, you are more than likely examining the results for 2012 and wondering what 2013 will bring. Reinvention? Examining the offer? Going in a new direction? Looking for new partners, sales channels, sales people?

These may all be questions that are being asked at the moment and maybe your business coach or business consultancy is asking you to think about those too?

Last question, why do we do this now when we have crossed this magical December 31st into a new year?

Shouldn't we be examining these questions each and every month? Maybe some of you do, but...

There's something in our human nature that causes us to be creatures of habit and we have a habit of following the crowd and when the world at large is doing it as well.

flickr | nationaalarchief

David Bowie decided to not follow the crowd. On the 8th January he released a new single and announced a new album, after a decade in the dark. OK so what is special about that? Well nobody in the music industry or press knew about the fact that he was recording, and they had no idea that the single was being released until it was done on the 8th January. So it made the national and international news instantly.

designspiration.net

Why follow the crowd? We do it most of the time and research confirms that we are hard-wired to follow the pack.

Gregory Berns [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Berns ] is an American neuroeconomist, neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry, psychologist and writer. He did some experiments with the ABC network in the US and below is a summary of one of the social experiments that he researched.

They invited a group of strangers to Jean George's Asian restaurant in lower Manhattan for a fabulous dinner -- and a surprise.

Party planner Colin Cowie and his friend, Donna D'Cruz, were in on the experiment. Their role was to exhibit outlandish behaviour most people wouldn't dream of while out at dinner with a group of strangers.

Cowie and D'Cruz licked their fingers, a dinner table no-no. Cowie picked his teeth. The guests initially seemed not to take the bait -- until dessert rolled around.

D'Cruz told everyone they should pick up pieces of mango face first, using their mouth. Eventually, people who were total strangers at the beginning of the evening were passing fruit back and forth, mouth to mouth.

Only Harold and Maria, a Canadian couple, passed on the gustatory familiarity. Finally, Harold was the only one who dared to ask, what is the point of the dinner?

Cowie explained the experiment to the group. "I think because we broke the rules, and we made things possible at the table, several of you followed suit with it."

One woman at the table said: "I think the majority of people will look to see what others are doing and follow their example."

Conforming Can Have Dangerous Consequences

This test is an example of our human need to conform. In fact, Berns' experiment is a variation of one done many years ago by another scientist trying to decipher an extremely vicious instance of conformity -- why so many Germans followed Adolf Hitler down the path to death and destruction. Berns says there are two ways to explain conformist behaviour.

"One is that they know what their eyes are telling them, and yet they choose to ignore it, and go along with the group to belong to the group," he said.

The second explanation is that hearing other opinions -- even if they are wrong -- can actually change what we see, distorting our own perceptions.

Berns wanted to see what was happening in the brain during his experiment. Using an fMRI, Berns found that, during the moment of decision, his subjects' brains lit up not in the area where thinking takes place, but in the back of the brain, where vision is interpreted.

Essentially, their brains were scrambling messages -- people actually believed what others told them they were seeing, not what they saw with their own eyes.

flickr | library_of_congress

"What that suggests is that, what people tell you -- if enough people are telling you -- can actually get mixed in with what your own eyes are telling you," Berns said.

And for those who went against the group, there was another intriguing result: Their brains lit up in a place called the amygdala, which Berns calls "the fear centre of the brain."

"And what we are seeing here, we think, is the fear of standing alone," Berns said.

So why do people follow the pack no matter how ridiculous it seems? Perhaps it's not so much about good and evil, right and wrong, smart or stupid. It might be, as Berns' experiment suggests, that our brains get confused between what it sees and what others tell us.

Just knowing that might help us guard against it.

What product or service are you planning or considering that can be kept a secret until you are ready to launch it to your prospects and customers?

Keep your powder dry, have less fear about rejection and more resolve about success.

Stop following the crowd and be DIFFERENT in all areas of your business.

Success!

What does Ben want for Christmas?

Meet Ben…

Ben lives in Worcester, had a tough time with his girlfriend, who had his baby and a paternity test confirms he's the father (OK so that's his story), but she'd rather go back to her ex boyfriend claiming that he's the father, so kicks Ben out. His now ex girlfriend is back with her ex, who does drugs and now she can go back to drugs too. Wondering what kind of life that baby will have? Ben in the meantime loses his job, loses his car and now has to go on a waiting list for a hostel, as its already full.

If he raises enough money, he may be able to get into a B&B for £25 per night, but only if he's really lucky. So far everyone is passing him by and not paying any attention to him, because they're busy buying Christmas presents for their families and rushing through the crowds, snarling at anyone who gets in the way. Ben reckons it will be the cardboard tonight, which he stores behind the yellow grit bin. That's his bed, the pavement is his home, his desk, his kitchen, his front room, the bathroom, oh I forgot to say his hands and fingers have this black and dirty appearance, you know the ones that look like they've really not seen water for a few weeks.

So I share a few pennies and wish him luck, walking away with my shopping bags and wondering and wishing if Ben will ever get that warm bed tonight or whether he will be under his cardboard bed sheltering from the cold.

If you are visiting the Worcester shops, look out for Ben, you'll only miss him if you are rushing selfishly around the shops, thinking only of the presents you still have to buy.

I know Ben isn't alone, there are many others. Happy Christmas Prime Minister!

What is stopping YOU?

I probably speak to people daily about the power of video and how this is such an important area for businesses to invest in. In fact I have been on about this since 2004, even before the birth and rise of YouTube and yes I was way ahead of my time, even if I say that myself. How right I was, if only I had invested more time and effort, I could have been an Internet billionaire by now. Oh well there's still time! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRC16SEJMmc

And whenever I mention it, they agree, they wax lyrical about YouTube and how they have found stuff on there, which was really useful and how they learned so much from it. Or how they saw this really funny video about a cat and a dog!!

So why is it then that YOU aren't doing it yourself?? I even remember (ok so I am getting on a bit) when websites first started emerging, those horrible American sites with the textured backgrounds, companies were saying that it wouldn't take off and that people wanted to be able to feel something tangible, a brochure or a leaflet, is what they needed. The same people who said that email would never take off, because people wanted a physical letter, and I bet they also said that photography was wrong online and that there was nothing better than having a printed photo, to put into a physical album. You have heard it all before I know you have...

Could these dinosaurs also be the ones who said that social media was for kids and for sharing what you had for breakfast and how they didn't get it? Actually a lot of them are still saying that even now. Yep they certainly are! Ah I nearly forgot of course they also said that music could only be listened to via a physical product like a record or CD, yes even a CD was hard to swallow but they had to give in on that one, because the quality was better.

Back to Video then, let me share an infographic with you. Whether you believe it or not there are a few things I am sure you will accept.

Watching video is fast, you probably watch an average of 5 hours each day, whether through the TV, DVD's and online.

You get what's said in a video very fast, much faster then via the written word.

Most of your senses are engaged with Video, eyes, ears, feeling or VAK as the experts call it Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Yes indeed these senses make you remember so much more from watching video. That's why 'the movies' are still so successful because they know how to get you to get a full sensory experience, which makes you want to come back for more and no I am not talking about the popcorn and coke!

Broadband speeds are getting faster and the roll out of fibre across the UK means soon everyone will enjoy over 30mb download speeds and even more over the next few years.

This means the likes of Netflix, Apple, Amazon and many more will see their video download services explode, in the same way music downloads did. And yes there will be the dinosaurs that say that copyright, piracy will be an issue and since when has that stopped anyone?

My appeal to you then is to get engaged with video, whether it's to promote your business, educate your colleagues or communicate to your staff.

JUST DO IT!!

Is Facebook the new Apple?

Well Facebook have done it. They have silenced the naysayers, the doubters, the fund managers who are still smarting about the dotcom collapse, the users who curse Facebook every day for making changes to the user interface without any regard for them, and the app creators who rely on their business fortunes and hoping for the continued growth of Facebook.

Facebook went public and made billions. Yes indeed someone wrote a cheque to buy loads of shares to make the owners very very rich indeed. (and Priscilla Chan is a very happy girl too!)

If you are reading this then it's an 85% certainty that you have a Facebook account. You may only have one to spy on your kids and then again, you may well be using it to stay in touch with "friends".

How many "friends" do you have? The average suggests you have somewhere in between 100 to 190 based on Facebooks's own research back in November 2011. http://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/anatomy-of-facebook/10150388519243859

And of those you probably only interact with a maximum of 6 and of those there are probably only 3 that you have a regular conversation with.

Facebook's growth has been phenomenal and unprecedented and there is no sign of it letting up. The power of personal recommendation has just got a 'whole lot' more important with their IPO.

The other day I was reading my newsfeed when I spotted this amazing image of cookies. Yes cookies! And someone had posted a thank you to the 'Campervan Cookies Co.' (http://www.facebook.com/CampervanCookiesCo) for making a great box of cookies for their client. And I loved them (well the look of them), the only thing was the company who had posted the thank you had actually forgotten to put their Facebook business page, so I had to ask for it and of course they obliged, so that I was able to find their page and like them.

So within in the space of a few seconds I was able to connect with a company I had never heard of, didn't even know existed, was so impressed with the recommendation that I was motivated to go and like their page, actually without even having tried the product!

So what do you think? Are you a business owner, consumer, student, charity or parent? Does the fact that Facebook went public affect the way that you will use the service?

Do you feel that you are going to be bombarded by adverts some time soon and will that turn you off?

Are you fed up of the amount of changes they make to the user interface every 6 months?

I would love to hear your views. So feel free to post them in the comments or if you fancy doing this inside Facebook, please go to http://www.facebook.com/stayingaliveuk

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Raise your glasses to Facebook and say Cheers!!

Have you Embraced 'Social Learning'?

The term 'Social Learning' in current days, doesn't mean the same as it did when Bandura did his experiments in the 60's. It encompasses a theory that individuals enjoy learning in a social context, when our learning is discussed and debated.

After all 'everyone has an opinion', and this means that we actually learn more about a topic, news story, event, training intervention, when we can reflect on it and interact with it.

Learning & Development (or training) at school and at work has and will continue to be the holy grail for all education professionals. We're always looking for better ways to engage students and drive a change in human behaviour.

Trouble is millions of $'s & £'s are spent every year to achieve these objectives. And it's so painful to see when the results don't match the spend.

Think about it. The world is at War somewhere in the world and always has been. Consider the economic conditions in most countries currently. If education, training and development works, we would not be in this state of flux. But really think about it. We as humans haven't evolved as much as we like to think. Our nature is closer to animal instinct then we give ourselves credit for.

If we are truly sophisticated and used more of our frontal lobe, which is the part that separates us from animals, then surely we wouldn't be carrying out wars, we wouldn't have an issue with CO2 emissions and global warming, the economies would be running smoothly.

Surely it would? Am I mad? I don't think so, I believe I am quite a rational kind of person, who can usually see both sides of the argument and yes I do see the best in most humans, because after all they should be educated, rational, intelligent and loving beings. And you also know that this isn't always true, but we have to start somewhere and I start with everyone's good until proven otherwise.

Anyway where is this leading us towards?

Oh yes, 'Social Learning'.

Consider the success of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and the latest kid on the block Pinterest.

What do they all have in common? Any idea?

Humans connecting with humans, that's the common thread through all of it. So why is this so important at this time in the world? It has allowed millions of us to have a voice, to discuss, comment and debate on news stories on major world events and on individual stories and their life events.

My theory and its only my theory and it makes perfect sense to me is as follows.

Remember the war? Which one you will say, because there have been so many.

Well let's just talk about World War II.

The War brought people closer, they looked out for each other and they knew more about each other's lives compared to any time in history. Well it's nearly 70 years since the ending of that major war and ever since then we as humans have drifted apart and have become more unconnected.

Social Networking is not an accident or a happy coincidence, it isn't either the creation of a Harvard University graduate or silicon valley's entrepreneurs. Their invention would never have worked if there wasn't the appetite for it.

The old saying ’people buy people first’ applies in social networks too, not just in business. We like to connect to like minded individuals or people that interest us and maybe we can learn something from them!

And yes we do like to learn, we are always learning, the brain collects millions of impressions every day, without us even realising it. If we don't learn we will die. As humans we have an inherent need to grow. But when we think about learning we think about, classrooms, teachers, exams, pressure, stress and recall many unpleasant memories.

We don't perceive consciously that reading tweets, Facebook posts, articles, blogs, watching YouTube videos as learning and of course it is, you are learning all the time.

The learning methodology of 70-20-10, is showing us that actually we learn 70% on the job or in our daily lives, 20% from our colleagues or family members or friends and 10% formally, so that's when we sit in a classroom, either at school or in the workplace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtdHZQ2VXhE

The development of social networks, will and is changing the world of learning forever. Millions of teachers and trainers are having to adopt these new technologies as part of their delivery methods.

This requires the teacher / trainer to become proficient in these new tools and get their own knowledge of these networks up to scratch. After all their students are using these to learn, so now we better embrace these too and make use of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc#!

Those that do, will succeed in helping to change the landscape of learning for themselves and students alike. A more engaged student will mean a more connected world and a more connected world will mean a world with more compassion and understanding for our fellow human.

Success!

 

Do you really make assumptions all the time?

I read a fascinating article in Wired magazine by Jonathan Lehrer, where he discusses the phenomena of our brains making assumptions on how things work, based on a set of data that we have collected.  In fact we collect data in our brains all the time.  And when we analyse data we start making all sorts of assumptions and conclusions based on that data.

And of course we can never have enough data to make our decisions on and at some stage we have to decide that we have enough of it to base our decisions on.

And this happens all the time in the most dangerous industry in the world, pharmaceuticals.  This article highlights some lessons for us all on how we make assumptions all the time in our private, business and social lives.

I have extracted what I believe to be the important constituents from his article:

On November 30, 2006 executives at Pfizer - the largest pharmaceutical company in the world held a meeting with investors at the firm's research centre in Groton, Connecticut.  Jeff Kindler, the then CEO began the presentation with an upbeat assessment of the company's efforts to bring new drugs to market.   He cited "exciting approaches" to the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis.  But Kindler was most excited about a new drug called torcetrapib, which had recently entered Phase III clinical trials, the last step before filing for approval.  He confidently declared that it would be "one of the most important compounds of our generation".  Kindler told investors that, by the second half of 2008, Pfizer would begin applying for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The success of the drug seemed a sure thing.  And then, just two days later, on December 2, 2006, Pfizer issued a stunning announcement: the torcetrapib Phase III clinical trial was being terminated.  Although the compound was supposed to prevent heart disease, it was actually triggering higher rates of chest pain and heart failure and a 60% increase in overall mortality.  The drug appeared to be killing people.  That week, Pfizer's value plummeted by $21 billion (£14 billion).

The story of torcetrapib is one of mistaken causation.  Pfizer was operating on the assumption that raising levels of HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL would lead to predictable outcome: improved cardiovascular health.  Less arterial plaque.  Cleaner pipes.  But that didn't happen. (According to a recent analysis, more that 40% of drugs fail Phase III clinical trials).

The problem was, it's this assumption that causes a strange kind of knowledge.  This was first pointed out by David Hume, a Scottish 18th-century philosopher.  

He realised that, although people talk about causes as if they are real facts - tangible things that can be discovered - they're actually not at all factual.  Instead, Hume said, every cause is just a slippery story, a catchy conjecture, a "lively conception produced by habit".  When an apple falls from a tree, the cause is obvious: gravity.  Hume's sceptical insight was that we don't see gravity - we see only an object tugged towards earth.  We look at X and then at Y, and invent a story about what happened in between.  We can measure facts, but a cause is not a fact - it's fiction that helps us make sense of facts.

The truth is, our stories about causation are shadowed by all sorts of mental short cuts.  Most of the time, these work well enough.  They allow us to discover the law of gravity, and design wondrous technologies.  However when it comes to reasoning about highly complex systems - say the human body - these short cuts go from being slickly efficient to outright misleading.

Consider a set of classic experiments designed by Belgian psychologist Albert Michotte, first conducted in the 40's.

His research featured a series of short films about a blue ball and a red ball.  In the first  film, the red ball races across the screen, touches the blue ball and then stops.  The blue ball, meanwhile, begins moving in the shame basic direction as the red ball.  When Michotte asked people to describe the film, they automatically lapsed in the language of causation.  The red ball hit the blue ball, which caused it to move.  This is known as the launching effect, and it's a universal property of visual perception.  Although there was nothing in the two-second film - it was just a montage of animated images - people couldn't help but tell a story about what had happened.  They had translated their perceptions into causal beliefs.  Michotte would go on to conduct more than 100 of these studies manipulating the films.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_jKNlC2YKo

There are two lessons learned from these experiments.  The first is that our theories about a particular cause and effect are inherently perceptual, infected by all the sensory cheats of vision.  Hume was right that causes are never seen, only inferred, but the truth is we can't tell the difference.  And so we look at moving balls and see causes, melodrama of taps and collisions, chasing and fleeing.  The second lesson is that causal explanations are oversimplifications.  This is what makes them useful - they help us grasp the world at a glance.  

The article is far too long for me to include everything in it and I have not been able to find it online either.  However I think I have got the main message from it.

And the question I pose to you, is:  What assumptions are you making today, that are based on incorrect date or not enough data or just that you have perceived the information  in a certain way?  Is the red ball chasing the blue ball instead of them just moving independently of each other?

And then there is the other old saying: "Perception is Reality"

Success!

Are you afraid of LinkedIn?

(135 million+ LinkedIn professionals around the world as of November 3, 2011)

I attended a recent networking event and chatted with business people, who were there because like me they would like more business.  I was taken aback a little when 2 people that I spoke to out of the 5 that I met, who shared with me that they were "afraid" of LinkedIn.

I use the term "afraid" on purpose because, when I asked them whether they were on LinkedIn, which is a standard question I ask every business person I meet, their faces filled with horror and then they shared with me the reasons why they either weren't there or why they were very very careful who they connected to.

Maybe I am the naive one, but my philosophy with Social Media is to either be active in it and play full out or stay out of the game, you can't be half in and choose when to come out and play and when to stay at home.

But it got me thinking, maybe there are more of you out there, who are "afraid" also, so I wanted to write this article to appeal to your more liberal side, the part of you that has courage and is willing to take a few risks, because you know you've got that part inside of yourself, don't you?

Here are the "fears" that were raised with me today:

  • People who I have never met or spoken to, ask to be connected to me on LinkedIn, why?
  • They tell me that they are wishing to grow their networks; well they are pulling me into the same mindset and I do not wish to be part of it!
  • I am very choosey who I connect to, because I only wish to be connected to people, who I have met and I have got to know them and what they are about
  • What if they start calling my contacts and telling them that they know me, when really they do not?

And I am sure there could have been more.  The real reason for the "fear" is actually ignorance and I don't mean that in a negative way, I actually believe it is really positive, because there is a fantastic opportunity to educate people.

I consider LinkedIn as my virtual business networking database.  LinkedIn is actually very ethical, it is run with the same principles as face to face networking and yes of course it is ideally best to have met that person or at least to have spoken to them.  However business is a numbers game and in order to have some influence in your business community you do need to connect with people who can be in your circle of influence.

It is good to build a relationship with people who you have not yet met face to face and yes try and do that even if you are only connected virtually.  Actually LinkedIn is so transparent, they can learn about you, your history, your experience, your business goals and learn so much more, which you would never be able to share at a face to face networking event.

We all need to do more with less, so LinkedIn is the perfect vehicle to network, without the expense of attending networking events, breakfasts, lunches etc.  It is becoming more acceptable to do things virtually and of course I appreciate it's not everyone's "cup of tea".

We need you all to start getting into the game and changing your mindset, because this is only going to continue to grow and we would like you to be there with us and be part of the journey.

There is a huge amount to know about LinkedIn and I have witnessed the massive changes it has undergone in the past few years, which I promise you will continue, especially as they have gone public now.

Below I have shared my own network stats on LinkedIn and you can see the reach you can have with only a few connections.  They say that the level below your direct contacts are where your real business opportunities lie.  You can see that I have 365,000 connections that are 2 degrees away from me.  That's just unbelievable and I could never imagine that I would be connected to so many people.  However if you notice carefully Linkedin, presents a small box to you every time you log in, which says "people you may know".  And when you click through you will see a list of page after page with people that are 2 degrees away from you.  Well the same is presented to everyone that goes on LinkedIn and is active on there and that's how you get noticed, that's when people view your profile.

I hope you take on board what I am trying to convey, but just in case you don't, I would be happy to explain some other finer points to you at any time, just post a comment or question on here.

Success!

Are you making enough use of Video?

With the majestic rise of YouTube, there really is no excuse for any of us not to be making more use of video in our communications with clients, training of our employees and using it to get our marketing message out.

The images are from an infographic commissioned with research data from the following 3 companies; smallbiztrends.com | getresponse.com | emailmarketingreports.com and gives us an idea about how important video is in email marketing.

It reports that around 80% of small businesses see videos as a vital medium through which to communicate to their audience.  With around 88% of companies considering video most effective in training courses (29%), product demos (22%), product promotions (19%) and customer testimonials (18%).

I have certainly started focussing more on video, whether it is to explain a concept in social media or assist people in getting their marketing message out to prospects.

I have also learned from Fusion Universal, that presentations never need to be dull any longer. Instead of the usual death by PowerPoint it's more effective to create a 2-3 minute video, which you play at the presentation, and gives the client the essence of your proposal.  Then you can spend most of the meeting discussing it, rather then taking up most of the meeting discussing your presentation or demo.

You can literally see the delight on people's faces, when they have just watch a short video and "get it". It solves a massive problem and that is "attention-span". Most of us struggle to concentrate for more than 5 minutes sitting through a presentation.  Our mind is always thinking and even when someone is talking to you, you are thinking.  Even when you are reading this you are thinking and our thinking wanders from thinking about the subject being discussed or presented to our personal thoughts, back and forth.

What we do a lot is deciding whether we agree with something or not and we get ready with our critical questions and objections in the first place.  This I believe comes from our primeval survival response to believing that this may be threatening to us in some way. Therefore I have to ask some challenging questions, to make sure that I will be safe.  Does that make sense?

Anyway enough of the "Philosophy".

My recommendation to you is to investigate the use of video more in your endeavours on the web and with your marketing activities.  It will continue to grow and it's time to become more active with it.

Success!

Phone Hacking | Murdoch | UK Government | Met Police | News of The World

OK I have been thinking how all this reminds me of something, something very familiar, something that started in a comic strip many years ago, something we have all been exposed to in our lives. Yes it's Superman, Batman and Robin, Cat Woman and I am sure you can think of many more. So here are some of the characters, can you think of any others?

5image
Lex Luthor's son = James Murdoch
2image
Daily Planet = News of the World
6image
Batman = David Cameron
4image
Robin = Nick Clegg
0image
Superman = Ed Milliband
Image
Police Commissioner Gordon = Sir Paul Stephenson
3image

Cat Woman = Rebecca Brookes

1image

Will I be a good blogger?

I have never done it...done what?? Blogging! I have resisted it for years, something about my past life I think.  I did a past life regression once, whether you are in to that or not, and found out that I was a famous author and my works had been stolen.  There was no internet in those days, just paper and ink I guess and once someone grabbed those writings, that would be it!  No back up copy, maybe the loose thoughts of what was in your brain, would be all that you had.  You also did not sell books in those days, you would use your writings to carry out lectures and hope that some of it would stick with the masses.  Bizarre that I would have that thought, so somehow this had an impact on my life in the 21st century and I have not been sure if it was worth writing at all. They do say don't they that everyone has a book inside of them. Now, I am not sure anymore whether people will still wish to read books in the future or am I being naive?  With the explosion of technology and pads and smart phones everywhere you look, twitter, facebook, youtube and blogging sites, why would you have to read a book from cover to cover, when you can learn so much more in soundbites?  I am sure the bookworms amongst you will be shouting and screaming, NO!  And I would have to agree that there always will be time when you just want to get lost in someone else's world and their brave journey, because for some reason someone else's journey is so much more interesting then our own.

Well I have decided I am going to have a go and do some writing, about what I have no idea yet.  My initial view is that it is going to be a mixture of my own philosophy and technology.  I know its a strange combination but they are both dear to me and I believe there is a lot to be said about how we as a human race are combining the two in the way that we conduct our lives these days.  They are totally inter-related and have a major impact on each other.  How exactly I need to figure out as yet, but I am sure it will come as I start typing inside this lovely blog.

I am looking forward to it and I am equally looking forward to your views and comments, as a good conversation and debate will be fun as well.

Ok that's all for now.

Michael