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  • Joan Alvares 9:00 am on May 10, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    Liquid teams for liquid times 

    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    There’s one question that is usually repeated when you get up to present your company: How many of you are there? At times I say there are three of us, others that there are thirty odd, according to the need to be impressed I see in my interlocutor. And in both cases, I’m telling the truth, because at Poko we work with a basic core of project managers and a liquid team that adapts according to each project.

    I’m one of those who thinks that to do something that makes sense, a team needs to be adapted to the project, not the opposite. Because when a company refuses to leave its comfort zone, when it doesn’t feel the need to involve external talent and explore beyond its own knowledge, normally it’s because it is doing something that already exists, more or less prescindible, that expires, easily Chinesed.

    Today the best restaurants in the world are just that because they had brought cusine closer to fields as diverse as art, science or industrial design; to do that they needed to involve the best professionals in these fields. A talent that a fixed structure surely could not have paid, and that would not make sense having permanently in a kitchen. Tomorrow’s project will be different to today’s, and it will force us to find collaboration with different professionals

    In a constantly changing world, the Internet enables us to build big companies without the need to be big structures. The idea is to create talent ecosystems, capable of detecting challenges in a project and capturing the best specialist to respond. The Internet invites us to discovery, disintermediation, cooperation among professionals with different talents that work in different parts of the world. It’s up to us to accept that invitation.

    In your organization, do you also use collaboration networks for different projects? When you collaborate with disperse team, you need great communication to ensure everything works like clockwork. How about using an Enterprise Social Network for this? Try Zyncro!

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at the Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
  • Joan Alvares 9:00 am on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Looking to buy time… 

    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    Editor’s note: At Zyncro, we care about time management processes and work. We want Enterprise Social Networks to make these processes easier and let us save time for other things. If someone was selling time, you’d buy it, right?

    Looking to buy time from anyone who will sell it to me. From anyone who doesn’t know what to do with it. From anyone who feels that they are wasting it each day working in something that doesn’t motivate them or doing stuff they aren’t interested in.

    Is this you? I’m sure we can come to an agreement, don’t worry. The price? I don’t know. I’ve never thought about selling mine. Tell me what you think a fair price would be. Quote me by hours or years, whichever you prefer. In the end, it is your time. For now. How much are you selling it for to your boss? I’ll double that.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not buying money from you, I’m buying time. I know, I know, you’ll tell me time is money. But for me, it’s much more than that: it is the most precious asset we have. Money comes and goes, but time never returns. Maybe it sounds nonsense to you, but I refuse to separate my time between “work” and “personal life”, between business and pleasure. In reality, anyone who works doing what they are passionate about can tell you that they work all the time or they never work. It depends how you look at it.

    I don’t know when you decided to sacrifice eleven months of the year doing something you don’t like in exchange for one month of vacations. I don’t understand why you think it’s a good deal. It doesn’t seem like one to me. In fact, if you do it in exchange for a really good paycheck, you’ll have realized that even money needs time to be enjoyed.

    When they see the end of life looming, most people ask for more time, not for more money. Some feel sorry for themselves when they realize they are going to die with their bank accounts fuller than their soul. They have sold their time at a loss. They realize then, when it is too late, that the richest person is not someone who has the most, rather someone who needs less.

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
  • Joan Alvares 9:00 am on January 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , inspiration,   

    Inspiration has a ‘c’ 

    Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

    I’ve talked before about infoxication, an overload of the information surrounding us. We read more than we are able to absorb. We see more than we are able to take in. We hear more than we are able to remember. And the excess paralyzes us. It paralyzes us just as if I suddenly asked you to tell me the best joke you know. You’ve probably heard thousands, some of them funny, but you’re incapable of remembering even a reasonably good one.

    So, what’s the point of accumulating so much information if when the moment of truth arrives, the moment when day-to-day problems need to be solved, we go blank? Does all of this information provide us with solutions or just the assurance that we’re not a bunch of uncultured people? The trouble comes from way back. We are educated in a system of memorization rather than critical thinking where, as Mark Twain said “information goes from the professor’s notes to the student’s notes, without passing through the minds of either”. The internet has exposed this system based on questions with a single answer, and we can assume that in the not so far-off future, exams will give the answers that students will have to resolve using questions. That’s how Google works. Until then, we will continue to see how highly educated people are unable to find what they are looking for on the internet, simply because they aren’t asking the right questions.

    The problem with not thinking is worse in creative professions, when materials as sensitive as ideas are worked with. Finding references using only memory (remembering what we have seen/read/heard) without processing anything through critical thought, rejecting all inklings of own talent, prevents us from creating and leads us down the path of plagiarism, conscious or unconscious. Beyond the moral component, which I couldn’t care less about (in one of my next articles I’ll talk about why originality is so overvalued nowadays), I believe that copying is stupid. It’s stupid because 99% of the time the same solution doesn’t have the same effect for two different problems, just as two pieces from the same puzzle rarely fit in the same place.

    This is why I believe in inspiraction. Because I believe that inspiration is only useful in so far as it leads us to action, mental before physical. In so far as we rethink everything we see/read/hear before trying to apply it to our problems. In so far as we acquire criteria for learning new things and unlearning what we believe no longer works. In so far as we are capable of transforming information into knowledge.

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at the Istituto Europeo di Design


     
  • Joan Alvares 9:00 am on November 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Business owner or entrepreneur? 

    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    Some people say that they are simply two ways of saying the same thing. Or that one leads to the other. But not all business owners are entrepreneurs, nor are all entrepreneurs business owners. The person who inherited a family business from his/her father, or grandfather who originally started the business is not an entrepreneur. Just like many people who, leaving their jobs to devote themselves to their passion and risk their savings for an idea, are not business owners, with a formally set up company.

     

    Some may never set up one, or get lost along the way, but that doesnt mean that they are not entrepreneurs or have the merit of being one.

    Undoubtedly “entrepreneur” is one of those terms that has been so abused recently that it makes you yawn just on hearing it. Today in any academic event, professional congress or business incubator, it is called upon with an almost obscene frequency. As if entrepreneurship were an end in itself. Or the only solution to recession. As if those who have voluntarily chosen to work for others should almost apologize. Courageous, optimistic visionaries sought. They are encouraged to think big, to create the next Facebook. To set up companies that grow from one month to the next, that generate so many jobs, that produce enormous P&L accounts and whose ego grows at the same rate as their pockets. In short, it is assumed that for complete fulfillment, the entrepreneur must aspire to becoming a great business owner, which in reality has more to do with being a good manager than a visionary. It’s surprising to see that the best business schools in our country, even those with an international reputation, train so many executives and so few entrepreneurs.

    The well-known words that Steve Jobs said to John Sculley, the then-CEO of Pepsi, to convince him to accept a position as CEO at Apple: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” He didn’t offer him shares, or a better salary, or gourmet food. He promised him an attitude. The words of an entrepreneur to a top executive. An entrepreneur who went on to become the main shareholder in the most valuable company in the world, but who opted to go down in history as a visionary rather than a businessman. His on-going need to reinvent Apple, or his first stopoff with Next and then with Pixar, illustrate that. Maybe the secret to being a successful entrepreneur lies there: in never forgetting the feeling of being an entrepreneur from day one.

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
  • Joan Alvares 9:00 am on October 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Classes of spam 

    Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

    Of all the ways you can lose prospective customers, spam is definitely the quickest and most effective way I know. For that reason, I find it fascinating how many companies continue to use this weapon of mass pollution, giving their money to “direct marketing” agencies that offer mass mailings with a click-through rate of 3%. 3%?!! It doesn’t matter that the other 97% don’t receive the mail, immediately trash it or are bothered by this method, just as long as a part of that 3% click through and a part of that part end up thinking of buying.

    We can classify it into at least three categories of spam according to the contents and nature of the spammer:

    • Genuine spam: Or common spam. Those mails that fill our inbox because a company has taken our mail address from a directory—or simply our web—and included in a BCC mail without our consent. If we are unsure whether we have agreed to that mail, best to ask the sender directly how they got our address. If there’s no response or the answer is unconvincing, we should remind them that spam is not only ethically reprehensible but legally punishable.
    • Consentual spam: The price we pay for downloading programs, using services and receiving products apparently free. Nothing is free: at times we pay with money, and other times with our data. I’m not going to try to convince anyone to do otherwise. Offers are tempting and times are difficult. But to avoid undefined spam, it’s a good idea to open a dedicated mail account (e.g. spam@gmail.com). Or create one of those ephemeral mails that disappears automatically once you enter it once. Or use systems like Unroll.me, an extension that strengthens the Gmail filter and groups spam in a single mail.
    • Friend spam: It’s a lighter form of spam, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. I think we all have done it once or twice. A friend is organizing an event and wants to invite as many people as possible, so they send an indiscriminate “send to all.” Another friend’s selling his car and, before placing the advert, he sends a mail to everyone. In other words, even though you don’t have a drivers permit, you start to receive responses from people you don’t know about a subject that you couldn’t care less about.

    Each time I talk about spam, I think about an anecdote from storekeeper in Malaga. Each week one locksmith or another stuck one of those classic stickers on his store shutters, until one day, tired of having to peel them off time and time again, he called all the phone numbers asking for their service. Once he had all the locksmiths in the city there at his door, he asked them to remove their stickers. And despite more than one leaving with a disgusted look, the truth is he’s never found another one stuck to his shutter. And for the moment, luckily, he hasn’t needed a locksmith.

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
  • Joan Alvares 9:00 am on August 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , fans, , followers, ,   

    Buy friends 

    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    Worried about your company’s image on the social networks? Concerned about your online reputation? Or to the point… Need more fans on Facebook? Don’t worry, that’s no longer a problem. Buy users in bulk, call them friends and enjoy the taste of popularity.

    It seems like a parody of a shopping channel advert, but it’s completely true. Webs like Marketing Heaven offers companies the option to buy packs of users ready to click “Like”, follow or watch a video on YouTube. As many as you can afford. The most crazy thing is that, as a guarantee of quality, they highlight that the users are real. In other words, not generated by some robot. This has got me thinking about the level of barbarity with which the Social Networks has trivialized words as basic as “friend” or “follower”. At the risk of seeming anti-social, I don’t think anyone can cultivate more than five Friends (in uppercase) at the same time. And it seems to me that being someone’s Follower is more than just subscribing to their daily comments or, much less, putting up with advertising in exchange for a few cents.

    The other day I witnessed a discussion between two community managers, after a heated exchange of arguments, that was boiled down to a “I’ve got a bigger one (page).” It seems that within the trade, managing or having managed a page with more fans gives them greater moral authority over their colleagues. At one point in the argument, my curiosity lead me to interrupt them to ask whether it wasn’t that like measuring the level of a chef by the number of people he had served. And suddenly, by magic, both teamed up to shoot down my argument with another that seems to me to be rather clear and revealing: community managers are not hired to cook, rather than to fill the restaurant. And you know that people always go the restaurant where there’s a line. For the same reason, the first thing we do when we check out a wall is look at the number of fans. So, if you’ve got the chance and the money, don’t think about it twice: buy friends

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
    • Mark 10:15 am on August 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Yup, buying fans seems like a common practise nowadays.

      As long as you’re using the right company you will not run into trouble.

  • Joan Alvares 9:00 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , opportunism   

    Power to the Opportunists! 

    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.

    Do you know why the Rat is the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac? Mythology tells that in the race between all animals to cross the river, the Rat -thinking it had lost- jumped onto the back of the Ox and leaped off just before the finish, managing to cross the line in first place. Some would say it cheated. But, cheating or not, it gave the first display of opportunism.

    Inexplicably, nowadays the term ‘opportunist’ has more negative connotations than positive.

    As if the act of taking advantage of an opportunity necessarily implies a lack of scruples. It has become a kind of insult that mediocre people, cowards and/or neurotics use to express their frustration of those who take advantage of an opportunity they have not seen, or that they have seen but didn’t do anything about.

    To be an opportunist is to be a visionary. The ability to see opportunities where everyone else only sees risk.

    The Rabbit or the Rooster could have done the same as the Rat, but came fourth and tenth, respectively. They had the same opportunity in front of them, but not once did they question whether the objective of the race was to measure their physical condition or if the Jade Emperor, who organized the race, wanted to test the mental speed of the animals.

    To be an opportunist is to be brave. Seeing the opportunity isn’t enough if you’re not prepared to act on it immediately.

    If the Rat had stopped to analyze the competition in depth, or to see how the Ox ran in order to assess if it was the best option among the animals, it wouldn’t have had time to jump onto its back. It probably thought about the decision whilst it was jumping, and it wasn’t afraid to follow its intuition. It knew that it had more to win than to lose.

    To be an opportunist is to trust in oneself. To be capable of giving value to one’s own virtues.

    Even assuming its obvious physical inferiority, the Rat believed it had two qualities for competing with the fastest animal: a smaller size and better agility. Suddenly, its biggest handicap (running) became one of its greatest strengths (to jump on the Ox’s back). Its main rival ended up becoming its best ally.

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at the Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
  • Joan Alvares 9:00 am on May 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    What happens in Vegas, stays in Google 

    The other day I went to a talk about online reputation. At the round of questions at the end, a communications director at an insurance company got up to ask for advice about a problem they were having. It turns out that when typing the company’s name in Google, the first two hits were from two disgruntled customers. The hits had been there more than six months, and they were unable to find a way to knock them off their privileged position. The speaker nodded, as if what he was hearing was nothing new, and after making his diagnosis, he advised them to hire the services of an SEO expert. In short, counteract those damaging posts with new content until Google indexes it in the top hits. Like pulling the chain to make the shit disappear. He didn’t ask the reason behind the comments. Not whether they were grounded or not. Nor whether the company had considered taking any action to solve it. Nor whether there was a customer service.

    All this got me thinking about how important it is to act with a long-term vision when dealing with online reputation. Listening to the Net and reacting to all the risks and opportunties it presents.

    Internet is a major showcase where everything expires quickly, but where written traces always remain. From the moment anyone can easily measure the image generated by a company, values like transparency and authenticity become of prime importance. There’s no point hushing up a criticism without taking actions to improve the problem that generated it. It will just come back.

    As a paradigm, let’s take Google’s own policy. Adam Darowksi, a well-known Boston blogger, was one of the first to test the beta version of Google Transit. After a surrealist experience in which the application suggested he cross a eight-lane highway on foot, he wrote, “does Google think I’m Superman?” You’d think that Google has enough power to be able to ignore the post and even the media for having completely ostracized it. You’d think that the wisest thing to do would be not to dig itself in any deeper. And yet it did the complete opposite. Aware that the blogger had a great many followers and certain influence, Google saw a magnificent opportunity to show its style in that criticism. A few days later Darowksy received a hand-written note from Joe Hughes, Google Transit director, personally apologizing and explaining the improvements they were making. And attached to it, a Superman cape.

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
  • Joan Alvares 2:54 pm on April 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , excess of information, information overload,   

    Surviving the infotoxication 

    Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

    Surviving the information overload

    You may be reading this post because you’ve stumbled across this site. Because someone had retweeted it. Or because the title sounded interesting. Whatever your reason, you’ve decided (dare I say you’re still deciding) to invest a little of your time in it. I want to be honest: this is not a self-help article that will help you to reduce a complex problem into a simple formula. If it did, I would have given it a more promising title like “How to survive the infoxication” or “Five tips for surviving the infoxication.” These lines are no more than an attempt to share a frustration: the excess of information that surrounds us.

    In the age of information overload, trying to absorb and assimilate all the interesting data around me seems frustrating (while I write this, the news is on in the background, my tablet is chocked with things to read and the timeline spits out the terms ‘king’ and ‘elephant’ at a dizzying rate).

    I read so much that I don’t have time to think about what I’m reading, and least of all, apply it in my business.

    The Internet has only heightened our lack of attention span. Today a child in China with a smartphone has access to more and better information that the President of the United States 20 years ago. However, that doesn’t make him more intelligent, just more informed, because information is not knowledge, just like a grape is not wine. In order for that information to become knowledge, it has been processed and let mature. Give attention to everything that interests you is like holding sand in your hand: the tighter you clench your fist, the greater the sensation that you’re loosing the greatest part.

    We live in multi-tasking mode, we want to be hyper-connected and we demand to know everything in real time. So much so that we’ve reduced the concept of news to headlines of 140 characters that overlap and expire instantly. I read somewhere, I don’t remember where, that this obsession for immediacy will bring about the disappearance of the present: without the present, everything is past or future.

    All this worries me and stimulates me at the same time, and leaves me with nothing but questions: How do we distinguish between the information that brings us value from that that wastes our time? How do we manage our limited attention span? How do we calm that unquenchable thirst for information? How do we digest the overdose? And more importantly: How do we recover the present?

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
  • Joan Alvares 10:01 am on March 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: calling cards, ,   

    Networking or not-working? 

    Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

    Social media cartoon

    Image: courtesy of geekculture.com

     

    I’ll admit, I find the whole thing a drag. ‘Networking’ is one of those words that is totally abused nowadays in business.

    But despite my reservations towards this type of events, over the last year I’ve participated in a dozen or so, compelled by my curiosity to solve a doubt I’ve been pondering for some time: whether these events really are any use in doing business or whether, as I suspect, most of them are more like a business cattle market, where most participants go with the sole purpose of finding customers and where hardly any serious relationships come out of it as a result.

    Tips like the two below, heard from the mouths of networking ‘experts’, makes me further believe in the second option:

     

    1. “Go loaded with cards”

    According to this theory, the greater the number of cards you hand out, the greater the possibility of generating business. To do this, you need to talk to as many people as possible, without any one individual stealing too much of your time as you can miss out on the chance to continue handing out cards.

    When you get home, you’ll sort all those cards you’ve received, and before throwing them in the trash, you’ll send information on your company to each of those emails. They’ll answer you with a thanks. And you’ll answer them back with a thanks.

    And suddenly you’ll have 20 new companies spamming your inboxes.

    2. “Sell your company in a few words”

    At a networking event, people don’t have time to lose. So to help solve this, many events use the speed-dating format. You’ll try to make the most of that short time to sell your company or project. A sort of I’ve got you here so I’m going to sell to you. When you actually let your interlocutor speak, he or she will try to the same with you.

    In reality, you’ll only listen to see if they can help you. And they’ll do the same.

    If at some stage you detect that they could be a potential customer, you’ll try to impress them. They’ll probably do the same. Then, switch partners. And if I’ve seen you, well I don’t remember.

     

    I think the spirit of networking has nothing to do with any of these tips. Improving your network of contacts doesn’t mean increasing them in number, rather optimizing them in quality. In order to get contacts, it is just as important to know how to speak as to know how to listen. Finding someone who can help is just as useful as finding someone who can help you. In short, it’s about giving value.

    Why not try the following exercise: the next time someone is explaining their business to you, think of the best contact you could present them to.

    Practise 69: it doesn’t matter what you expect to receive.

     

    Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design

     

     
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