Marc A. Ross presentation at the Small Cities, Big Ideas Forum

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The forum took place on September 11, 2018, in Hartsville, South Carolina at Coker College - Davidson Hall.

The forum was designed to start a conversation about future trends and how they may have a positive impact on the growth of Hartsville, South Carolina. The approximately 60-minute presentation was followed with a brief question period.

This event was hosted by the Hartsville Planning Commission through the generosity of the Byerly Foundation.

You can hear the audio here on SoundCloud.

Marc A. Ross specializes in thought leader communications and events for senior executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.

How to think about communications + content + commerce and why thought leadership is important

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Today the customer is in control.

Full stop.

No longer is the seller in control of the sales process, and hard sales are losing effectiveness daily.

Gone is the day when the seller could show up, make a presentation, offer some price reducing inducements, close the deal, and move on.

Next time you are in a retail store see how people are using their smartphones. Some are taking notes to generate ideas, some are snapping photos to develop a wish, and some are even purchasing the same product from an online competitor.

For those selling services or subject matter expertise, before buyers even buy your offering, they go to your website, view your Instagram account, check out your LinkedIn page, read your blog posts, and of course do research to see what others in the same space charge.

So what is a seller to do?

A seller must think thought leadership.

With so many goods and services available from providers around the planet, this abundance of choice can be a thought leader's differentiator.

Buyers want to be led.

They want to be informed, guided, and managed in a respected manner that makes them feel like they are part of a special cause bigger than themselves.

Enlightened organizations that embrace thought leadership from the start can develop lasting relationships with customers. Such a relationship which is shaped by forwarding thinking leadership will move a buyer to new thinking, a unique viewpoint, and a new paradigm.

Thought leadership is a choice and is not off in some inaccessible Ivory Tower.

We all have the power to be thought leaders.

Simply put, thought leadership demands that we are committed to respectably working with customers and clients by creating value in every step of the buyer's journey and thinking long-term.

But many of organizations continue to struggle with how to do that and connect in a meaningful manner.

As a first step, organizations must abandon aggressive sales behaviors that buyers are resisting and employing behaviors shaped by thought leadership management.

Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, I have seen first-hand leaders who do create compelling communications, focused content, and winning commerce are thriving and making a difference.

To harness the power of thought leadership to foster sales in this new environment, employ strategic thinking and thought leader tactics.

Use a strategy that thinks education, experience, entertainment, and easy.

Use tactics that reinforce, reward, recognize, refresh, and supported by research.

Let me know how you are getting on or have examples of organizations and individuals using thought leadership to generate revenue and make a difference.

— Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross specializes in thought leader communications and events for senior executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.

Does your network challenge your point of view?

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I have found when your network is mostly people whose backgrounds and experiences are similar to yours, it’s unlikely to help you foster new ideas or hear additional solutions. 

Starting Brigadoon was a tool to help me foster new ideas or hear additional solutions. 

As someone who provides professional advice and communications services to top-flight executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics, I need to have information coming to me from numerous sources.

It is essential for me to diversify my network by connecting with people whose viewpoints, insights and experiences differ from my own. In particular, engaging people who will challenge my assumptions and biases - from ideas on commerce and culture to politics.

However, organizing events for entrepreneurs and thought leaders is a lot of work and is a long-term investment.

Quicker, more actionable tactics can be as easy as changing your daily conversations and working with existing groups to help expand your network.

For example, when I meet someone new, I try to learn what we have a common but move quickly to talk about what we don’t have in common and get them talking by asking them questions.

Another idea, if you’re struggling to expand your network in the traditional ways, create a reason to bring a diverse group together.

For example, bring Brigadoon to your hometown. This will give you a chance to utilize our network while you are reinforcing your network in a friendly environment. Even easier, start a monthly book club which will provide you with a chance hear a variety of perspectives, as well as to read authors you wouldn’t usually pick up.

Making your network rich and divergent will help you develop a foundation that will both inspire you as well as push you to expand your thinking.

A network that helps you better manage and understand the emerging issues shaping commerce and culture is essential in today's competitive and global business environment.

Happy network building.

-- Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross specializes in thought leader communications and events for senior executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics

Your decision, it's probably wrong.

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“Even smart people in clever organizations make bad decisions." -- Paul Nutt, a management professor at The Ohio State University

Half of your decisions are a success.

Half of your decisions are a failure.

Based on his research, Professor Nutt has determined you are just as likely to make a failed decision as a successful decision. 

A primary culprit of generating failed decisions is a half-hearted or limited search for alternatives during the decision-making process. Many executives end up selecting from a limited pool of options, decreasing their odds of making the best possible decision.

Steven Johnson, author of Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most, has explored Nutt's research and found many executives fail in the decision-making process by failing to generate alternative outcomes and scenarios. 

Nutt collected real-world decisions where he analyzed 78 decisions made by senior managers at a range of public and private organizations: insurance companies, government departments, hospitals, advice for hire firms, etc.

According to Johnson, the most striking finding in Nutt’s research was this: Only 15 percent of the decisions he studied involved a stage where the decision makers actively sought out a new option beyond the initial choices on the table. In a later study, he found that only 29 percent of organizational decision makers contemplated more than one alternative.

This turns out to be a lousy strategy for decision making.

Executives often feel compelled to “grab the first feasible choice that comes along, cram it down everyone else’s throats, point to data that supports the choice, and then battle resistance when they try to implement it,” Nutt says.

It turns out there is a strong correlation between the number of alternatives deliberated and the ultimate success of the decision itself. 

Why do smart people from clever organizations rush to judgment and clinging stubbornly to one set of ideas? 

Blame mythology, emotion, ego, and lack of process.

The mythology of the successful businessperson demands they succeed regardless of the stakes, often by taking rapid and decisive action. The mythology of success placed on businesspeople creates an environment where failure is not an option thus forcing decisions to be executed rapidly and cover up mistakes.

The emotion of making a swift decision makes executives feel good. Decisions made generate the high of deciding. Unfortunately, these decisions are often made without clearly exploring all outcomes and scenarios. In reality, most decisions made do not need to be quick. Executives have more time to choose than they realize. Thinking about a decision could be the best decision an executive makes.

For many executives, especially entrepreneurs and thought leaders, they come from the rugged individual mindset. People from this mindset ask for little support, need little outside motivation, and have worked solo successfully for years by just doing and executing. Shaped by a self-supported ego, such executives usually propose a self-serving idea and then quickly move to get endorsements for the self-supporting idea.

Here are some tactics to create a process to shape your next big choice:

1. Don't be too decisive: Even Barack Obama had chosen to sleep on his decision before he authorized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

2. Involve other perspectives: Retired Army general Stanley McChrystal reminds executives they have access to the answer, but the answer is often locked up in different parts of the company that executives can’t or won't interconnect.

3. Visualize the inverse of what a successful outcome looks like: Famously before one of the greatest endings in Michigan State - Michigan college football history, my seatmate asked, "What could go wrong?" Well, a lot. In 2015, Michigan led 23-21 and just needed to punt the ball away to win. However, the Wolverines mishandled the snap, and the Spartans ran it back for a touchdown as time expired to win 27-23. Hard to imagine any Michigan coach, player, or fan envisioning such an ending. If they did, Michigan not punting the ball might have been the best outcome to ensure victory.

4: Don't ask how, ask who: Don't learn how to do something, ask the best expert on the subject what they would do.

5. Consider three different outcomes: By making this decision, ask yourself what the possible, preferable, and probable outcomes are. Predicting one successful answer is tough - identifying three outcomes is easier.

Your decision, it's probably right.

-- Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross specializes in thought leader communications and events for senior executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.