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As technology continues to reshape how we connect and live, it’s hard to imagine that there could be one investment – a ‘constant’ amid ongoing change – that businesses can make to ensure they stay relevant today, tomorrow and in years to come. Sounds too simple, right?

At the core of every business, however, there is (refreshingly) one element that validates an enterprise’s existence and fuels its growth.

Relationships.

Dynamic, diverse, ever-changing, everywhere. Relationships are key to business (and personal) success. Relationships power business…not innovation.

Relationships – with your customers, prospects, employees, investors, partners – not only make sure a business has a reason to exist (such as customers in the first place, and employees who bring new ideas and make products and services possible) but also makes sure it can continue to do so (if these relationships are maintained).

Customer Relationships. These relationships should influence the trajectory of a business and its product pipelines. Learnings and insights from ongoing dialogue and listening with this group help ensure businesses provide products, services and experiences that give their customers reasons to be loyal. Intimatrelationships kidsely knowing customers, building relationships and trust with them, helps businesses identify the answers, or shall we say solutions, in order to make their lives easier, better, richer, and/or more fun.

Employee Relationships. These relationships make sure customer and investor relationships even have the chance to happen. What came first the product or the employee team? The employee (team) who thought of the product. Without people, there are no (new) ideas. Without employees, companies can’t operate or deliver.

Perhaps the best news about relationships being so fundamental to a business’ success is how many opportunities there are today to cultivate them. With talk of big (and now small) data, new technologies and growing social media, in many ways it is easier than ever “to have more meaningful, two-way conversations,” as Google’s senior vice president of marketing Lorraine Twohill recently explained.

The challenge becomes making sure you don’t commoditize your relationships. Authenticity is key: empathy and acute listening make the magic happen, naturally differentiating you from everyone else. As maintaining and growing relationships continue to become easier – possible on the go, 24/7 with a plethora of tools – it can be tempting to phone in the energy invested. Recognize the value of relationships to your business’ long-term prosperity and you’ll have the insight you need to stay relevant, or better yet, ahead of the curve.

All you have to do is listen.

As we countdown the remaining days before Christmas, the London team paused to reflect on what we collectively learned from our clients and each other in 2013. It was an exciting year with a lot of new faces, talent and opportunities to challenge ourselves with engaging projects and dynamic clients.

So building on the now world famous and often co-opted 12 Days of Christmas carol* (originally from England, mind you!), we are pleased to share with you “The 12 things it takes more than the 12 Days before Christmas to learn” by the W2O London Team.

12 Reviewers Reviewing
On a day-to-day basis, we typically liaise with a small handful of people on the client-side, but once you hit send/submit on those materials you’ve been working on for months, remember there are always more people than you realize reviewing and assessing our work. Think about all audiences when sharing deliverables and go the extra mile to enable the document to help brand us with internally stakeholders: ensure it is visually compelling to establish WOW-factor, include a short briefing document/ coversheet to showcase all the thought and strategy behind your work… and no typos!

11th Hour Requests
Admittedly not unique to clients on this side of the pond, last minute requests are part of our work lives. While our hustle and responsiveness is (typically) appreciated by clients, remember it is okay to pause for a second and, if appropriate, push back to provide a more strategic alternative.

10 “Starter Points”
We Brits know the catchphrase “starter for ten”. Like in University Challenge (think: Jeopardy for the college-aged crowd), getting the “right answer” from the start (get it?!) can unlock the door to “bonus point” opportunities. But often clients don’t know the “right answer”, so how do we get these “bonus points”? By ensuring we are thinking a step ahead of the client as to what is next… if you like this proposal, you are going to love this idea…

9 Time Zone Span
As we continue to expand our global reach (working across 9 time zones!), it’s in our best interest to use our 24-hour time span to our advantage. Done effectively, we can pass the baton from one time zone to the next and in the end, win the race! But remember, ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ – let’s not let one geographic location work around the clock and sacrifice their wine-o-clock.

8-Hour Days of Referencing
A full day committed to sourcing, inserting, ordering and highlighting references – it’s a rite of passage for anyone working in healthcare. But what does not kill us, makes us stronger and even the most tedious tasks need to be done with flawless execution because the impact on the larger project is significant and all eyes are watching (i.e. the 12 Reviewers Reviewing!).

7 Days a Week
There is a reason why the famous Dolly Parton song ‘9 to 5’ today feels a bit dated and it isn’t her perm. With many congresses happening over weekends and busy clients who travel globally, ‘9 to 5’ is not the reality. A value add we can bring is in simplifying our clients’ lives. Keep presenting ideas that will help your client work and look smarter and always consider how you can present your information in a “mobile-friendly” fashion… chances are they are reading your recommendations on their smart phone while downloading their next airline boarding pass.

6 Team Members
The key to a successful integrated account is to actively involve our 6 ‘functions’: CRL, PMO, CCX, Engagement, Digital, Analytics. True integration can be as difficult as dating, but by establishing clear roles, responsibilities and expectations from the onset, you’re well on your way to a happily integrated relationship.

5 Rounds of Zinc (or whatever fun review system your client uses)
If we’re being honest, 5 is probably on the low side of the average number of rounds of review most materials go through before final approval. It’s not always easy to send those nagging emails to the client to provide feedback/sign-off, but persistence pays off and it never hurts to ‘manage-up’ to remind clients we are on top of everything.

4 Brands a Time
Time is not always on the side of country colleagues/affiliates who often work on as many as 4 brands at a time. So if you’re working for a global client, remember to create materials that can be easily repurposed for local market use. Keep it simple, clear, translatable and adaptable.

3 Ideas Max
A magic number to keep in mind. When presenting creative ideas and concepts, it is ideal to keep it to a maximum of three – too much choice often confuses clients, but too little choice does not give enough range for the client who isn’t quite sure what they want. More importantly, make it count. Provide 3 ideas that clearly demonstrate you understand their business objectives.

2 Words: “I’m Sorry”
At the risk of sounding like your mother, be willing to admit when you are wrong and acknowledge how your mistake may have had an impact on the client. It is important in order to build a trusting relationship. True client partner requires a mutual respect for honesty and transparency.

And it’s Friday so they’re going home at three (♫ ♫ ♫)
Americans may roll their eyes when Europeans start ducking out on Fridays (and for those amazingly long and frequent holidays in general), but we need to appreciate and respect the culturally relevant differences in our working styles… whether they are corporate vs. agency or European vs. American. Take the time in 2014 to recognize and appreciate that the diverse, unique and dynamic backgrounds of both our clients and colleagues at it is truly what makes us sparkle! ☺

Happy holidays from the W2O London team!

Flying home from a recent trip to Boston, I found myself seated next to a father and son also headed back home. It was a late flight and 24F was pretty young—I’d guess 4, maybe 5 years old, brown floppy hair and big eyes.

You can imagine my initial trepidation that he might have difficulty peacefully enjoying the flight. This wouldn’t necessarily be an easy trip for such a little guy. Remembering that the flight should be only 45-minutes – despite my previous New York-Boston flight having taken a total of eight hours – I took a deep breath, confident that I’d be in a cab and home soon enough. (Lightning doesn’t hit in the same place twice, right?)

It was, in fact, a short 45-minute flight. As the captain informed the cabin that we were making our final descent, however, the flight got more interesting. Mr. 24F turned to his dad and began earnestly and thoughtfully to ask his father…“why.”

Why did we have to fly over the buildings? Why did the lights go on on the runway? Why did we have to stay in our seats? Why was the pilot the boss?

Smiling to myself, I couldn’t help but laugh and think…our interest in the answer to the question “why” begins at a very young age and stays with us. To be fair, it’s arguably the most interesting question that can be asked, or contemplated.

24F wasn’t asking a bunch of “how” or “what” questions while we taxied to the jet bridge; those could come later, after he determined if they were worth it. He instead began with “why” – a simple piece of advice most companies could benefit from when engaging with any one of their stakeholders.

For 24F – much like any employee, consumer or investor – an honest answer to the “why” question earned the right, and trust, for his dad to be asked and tackle his “how” follow-up questions. In this way, “why” acted as a gateway, or permission, to continue the engagement. Depending on how the “why” question is answered, people like 24F decide if they want to know anything else about the topic in play.

In the business context, “why” helps both internally and externally. Across the board, the answer to this question with regard to a business, product, strategy, and/or service decision can:
·    Inspire new ideas or motivate,
·    Create understanding, and/or
·    Earn or hold attention/interest

If “why” can be so powerful, why do companies seem to neglect its importance so often, as demonstrated by their insufficient context sharing? They seem too focused on conveying, sometimes even praising, the “what” and the “how.” But, consumers and employees alike often can easily discover and understand this answer, at least to a certain degree, on their own, just like 24F understood that we needed to stay in our seats. What was more interesting to him was learning “why” we had to—for what purpose, to what benefit.

And, herein illuminates the unmistakable power of “why” — the real insight 24F gave me. The power of “why” has everything to do with its unique ability to compel behaviors.

For businesses, this might mean influencing consumer purchasing decisions or employees’ adoption of a new approach to doing business. For consumers, it can mean solidifying brand loyalty and inspiring word-of-mouth endorsement. For the little guy in 24F, it meant keeping him safe in his seat with his seatbelt fastened until the plane came to a complete stop.

What does the answer to “why” mean for you?

The first month at a new company is a curious time. You find yourself having many conversations that range across varied topics. I just came onboard W2O this month after years of predominantly working on very large-scale global accounts; Microsoft, Intel and Google. Of the many interesting conversations this month, one theme repeated itself; site localization and globalization. Every challenge was different but it made me think deeply about what advice I might give a client marketing team on the topic.

The allure of having a global web presence is very attractive to many CMO’s, Sales Organizations and marketing teams. Is an organization ready for it? Here are a few key items I think necessary to getting it right.

  1. Is the market ready for you? You don’t need a crew of MBA consultants to tell you if you have a viable business reason for a global web initiative. The key 4 vectors should be close at hand; each market’s revenue opportunity, your sales/marketing budget in that market, your current page level traffic based on content type from the region, and the online presence/potential of that region. If your sales & marketing teams can’t answer first three easily your company may not be mature enough to head in this direction. The fourth can be found with a little bit of research.This is not a black and white decision, however, if the revenue opportunity is there and you have enough budget to support the ongoing marketing effort those are good indicators you actually need to be online in that market. High page traffic may indicate good potential and a growing region may indicate readiness for your brand message. Conversely if you lag in any of these you should look strongly at how you approach the effort and what you hope to gain or learn from it. If you are currently supporting markets this is a great evaluation of how to adjust that support market by market using solid business criteria.
  2. Planning right includes measurement and analysis. It is sometimes easy to think only about the experience, creative and translation when building a global site. However, knowing what you want to measure is the most important factor for the long term success of your site. The ability to measure, analyze and adjust creatively to the metrics of your site, social activity and campaigns is the key to modern marketing. Do not forget to have a plan in place including the analytics tools to measure success.
  3. Lift your creative, everywhere.  Creative is a fragile thing and it is very easy to strangle the creativity out of your team before you start. Focus your team on the experience your users want and avoid heavy-handed mandates. Think twice about restricting the use of colloquial copy. Your brief should include direction for the localization teams so that they can handle the content that doesn’t translate well for their audiences. Expand the creativity of your U.S. team and do the same in all possible markets. This is more work…but it is worth it, for you and your customers. Remember, while it is important to ensure that your navigational items and architecture can accommodate many languages and that images are not burdened with details like dollar signs you still need to allow for great headlines and engaging copy.
  4. Get your platform right. There are many concerns with a platform choice; localization is just a small part of the decision. That being said a critical requirement for a localization team is ease of update. Global marketing teams need to ensure their requirements are clearly articulated to the team making the platform decision. The lack of ease-of-update can result in slow, laborious (ie, expensive) workflow for localization teams. Localization can be a heavy process with a little art thrown in, try to avoid making it all about the process and your customers will notice the art. (Building it tip – Google provides great globalization tools for developers)
  5. Find good partners. Whether you choose a global agency, a custom site shop, or somewhere in between you will need to evaluate partners at a number of levels. First up is an honest evaluation of the experience of your own marketing teams. If you have in-house experience you can take more risk with multiple vendors and push the creative envelope far. If your team is new to this consider a agency or freelance team who have been there before. This effort will take longer than you expect and experience is one of the only ways to reduce the risk of falling flat.
  6. Consider it a pilot. There is nothing wrong with taking a small first bite. Even experienced teams can’t predict how users will interact in different markets.  A launch, test and learn approach might be the perfect solution. Give your teams time to build the process, understand their roles and see if a market is ready for your brand. Pilots also help internal teams understand the appropriate level of expectations necessary to succeed in a new environment.

The upshot. You should have a reason to be there and the money to see it through. In the end you may decide to go for it with neither…but by thoroughly considering these factors you will have started a productive conversation. A conversation that should lead to developing a strong plan, setting the right expectations, assigning an appropriate project budget/timeline, defining your success metrics, and evaluating the results. Good luck!

Over the last two decades, Michael Walker Hall, has led global marketing partnerships for a series of the largest corporations in the world. From Intel, Microsoft and Google to Walmart.com and Wells Fargo he has ensured that big ideas are fundamentally underpinned with digital savvy and operational excellence, continually advancing his client’s global marketing visions. Most recently he led teams launching Intel.com and Google Nexus 7.

Michael is Managing Director – Integrated Digital at W2O Digital he is also a graduate of Vassar College in Asian Studies, an alum of the design program at CCA and an avid fine art photographer Michael lives in San Francisco with his family and enjoys all that the city offers.

It’s no secret that over the last few years, the relationship between Microsoft and Nokia has been getting hotter and heavier. It all started about 2 years ago when Nokia announced that it would be launching its new Lumia devices equipped with Microsoft’s newest METRO OS. Many felt that the move would pair two of the once great platform leaders and position them for success against growing Android and iOS dominance. The original device received a lukewarm reception but showed potential. The devices smooth lines reestablished Nokia as a strong industrial design alternative while the METRO UI showed that Microsoft finally figured out mobile. With the purchase of Nokia, Microsoft now has a hardware platform to take its OS to the masses and level the playing field with Android and Apple.

What this means for us:

More options:
Microsoft will undoubtedly release a number of new handsets and try to get them into the market with all carriers. This would likely translate into higher subsidies for new devices and they try to grab market share. Implications for Marketers and Brands: Start looking for Windows to take a stronger market share and adjust platform development accordingly.

 More Apps:
The Zune marketplace will finally have enough action to become a viable app store. While the marketplace does have a number of solid apps, they fail when it comes to the more common ones that you’d expect (surprisingly, think Instagram). This expansion will likely mean more apps will show up in the marketplace as new deals are struck. Implications for Marketers and Brands: Start looking at distribution on the Zune store as well as paid media options for Zune specific apps.

A change in the mobile experience:
The METRO UI is notoriously flat and devoid of a lot of the shadows and textures and works within a Grid system ( notice anything interesting apple). While iOS 7 is moving in that direction, METRO also brings more information to the forefront with active tiles. Implications for Marketers, brands and designers: as the market changes, the design of apps and interfaces will need to adjust to meet the need. Also with live tiles, apps will need to be created with that “always on” approach in mind.

 Mobile payments power:
With Microsoft stepping into the fray with its own device, their control over how those devices are created will expand. Integrating a payment system into the devices will be less of a conversation to be had with an OEM and now sit firmly in the hands of the OS developer.Implications for Marketers: We will finally be able to start thinking through mobile payment solutions as something at is within reach.

Multichannel integration:
Microsoft Mobile and Xbox were made for each other. Now that there is a robust platform, Windows METRO users will undoubtedly link to their other home devices (xBox one), and we can expect Microsoft to expand on this with other home devices that can integrate to the phone.Implications for Brands: Start thinking seriously about home integration and second screen functionality.

The end of Blackberry
If the writing on the wall wasn’t clear enough, It should be now. The last place player at least had its own handset. something that is much less of an issue now. Also, Exchange has a very high level of adoption, ands much lower price point for integration over Blackberrys proprietary email delivery methods.Implications for users: throw away your blackberry – if you haven’t already.

All in all, this purchase, looks to push an industry forward that may have become a little too complacent. Speaking personally, Ive always seen the METRO UI as being fairly innovative and its good to see if finally having a dedicated and suitably stylish shell.Please share your opinions. I’d love to continue the conversation as the deal goes through.

 

Unfortunately, in a time of economic uncertainty, we seem to have fallen out of love with Lunch. And by Lunch, I mean a proper sit down affair, over which there is no working agenda nor papers set in front of you to review except for the menu. In a classic case of ‘time is money’, we have increasingly felt the need to generate tangible outputs from our lunch break and I believe we are in danger of forgetting the value of Lunch.

Last year, the Hong Kong stock exchange reduced its lunch break for the second time in two years, from 90 minutes to an hour (it was previously 2 hours). Uproar ensued, including street protests. The stock exchange reasoned that the move was necessary to make Hong Kong more competitive by aligning its trading hours with other major exchanges in Asia. The brokers argued that the extended lunch break was integral to their bottom line as the time was spent meeting with clients over a meal during which business was discussed. The restaurant owners in the financial district joined in because the shorter lunch break meant a loss of business.

Prior to joining WCG in London, I worked as a communications consultant for our PROI partner agency in Singapore across various industries in the Asia-Pacific region. Lunch has always been and still remains an important part of the fabric of business, particularly in Asia. Not only that but the details of the activities during and around the event (and yes, it should be considered an event) are vital to the success of the Lunch.

1. Lunch as a way of nurturing the client relationship

  • A hungry client is a grumpy client; a well-fed client, on the other hand, is a happier, more amiable client
  • The Business Lunch offers many opportunities to build rapport, from deciding what to order from the menu, to making pleasant conversation between courses [Conversely, launching straight into business talk insinuates that you are only interested in his/her money rather than the relationship]
  • The choice of restaurant says a lot about how you view the client: a balance of good food (bonus points if you have chosen a place that specifically caters to the client’s dietary needs/preferences) and ambience shows that you value the relationship

2. Lunch as a branding exercise

  • Choosing the location for the Lunch is an art in itself – it has to be trendy enough to show that you are in the know, but not too trendy lest you come across as unimaginative; in recent times, being too flashy in your choice of restaurant is also frowned upon
  • The selection of the menu for a corporate reception (which tend to be Lunch) speaks volumes about your level of discernment and taste

3. Lunch as an internal team bonding activity

  • In Asia, the lunch break is sacred and many people will leave their desks (if not office) to partake of their lunch, often in groups, for the full break time. The time away from their desks allows staff to unwind and get to socialise with other colleagues, helping build stronger relationships and camaraderie.
  • Team lunches are a regular affair, spearheaded by team leaders or senior management executives – they serve to motivate staff, who often work long hours, and foster stronger team spirit

At WCG in London, we recognize the value of developing strong personal relationships, both on a client level and among our teams. Many of us not only have our little black book of places to go but also keep notes about our client’s interests and preferences. This has helped us show that we are invested in them as real people and encourage real partnerships. We have retained several clients since we opened our doors in 2008 and the relationships have supported mutual growth of our businesses: these clients are not only cornerstones but have helped open many doors to new business opportunities.

Who is ready for Lunch?

All too often, leading brands lose their way. Polaroid. Eastman-Kodak. PanAm. Wang. Digital Equipment (DEC). The history of business is littered with such stories. But why did these once industry-leading companies stumble? They were pioneers in their fields. Yet, their names are no longer with us or, in the case of Kodak, a pale imitation of its once great self.

Collapses like those occur for a variety of reasons, depending on the circumstances. They can arise from a combination of factors, such as when a weak economy creates opportunities for an upstart competitor to poach customers with a less-expensive alternative and/or a more robust version of the industry leader’s standard model.

The failure is gradual. It happens because the industry leader is slow to respond to an evolving marketplace, placing false confidence in an established position atop the market.

Polaroid and Eastman-Kodak both reacted too slowly and tardily to the advent and quick adoption of digital photography. PanAm didn’t adapt to a newly competitive airline industry when U.S. regulatory controls were eased, opening the field to a plethora of discount competitors.

Likewise, Wang and Digital Equipment ignored the coming of the PC, first from IBM and then the clones. Where are Wang and DEC today?

Lazy Certitude

At the heart of such failures, we can usually find a lazy certitude that the status quo will continue ad infinitum. That belief is accompanied by a loss of connection between the people who comprise the companies and the essence of their brand – i.e., what it stands for. Brands must stand for promises made to customers – be it quality, cutting edge technology, responsiveness, superior customer service, or any number of other reasons that people choose one brand over another.

Companies stumble because the brand promise gradually erodes and becomes hollow bluster, echoing an earlier self-image built on promises actually delivered. This bluster masks a reality of unfulfilled promises and a lack of requisite confidence of the people that make brands live every day. This confidence is built on leaders, managers and employees living the brand promise every day in every thing they do.

That loss of confidence and connection to what the brand once stood for occurs across the organization – and it festers. Lack of confidence produces more of the same and greater disconnection from the promise of meeting or exceeding customer expectations.

This can be a natural trend affecting any business, but in this era, the speed at which change happens and impacts organizations is far faster than ever before.

Trend Spotting

Spotting such trends and arresting them begins by recognizing and acknowledging that the organization has lost its core meaning, lost touch with what made it great and the leader in its field in the first place. It may still be the leader, but not much longer if its promise is being eroded by an organizational disconnect.

It is coasting on its established reputation. It is moving from one quarter to the next focused on revenue and profitability, but without a shared sense of purpose or definition of what it is, or what it stands for. Is this your company today?

What are your brand promise, vision, and mission? Are they just words on paper, or are the employees, managers and leaders really living them in what they do every day? Are the words and phrases dynamic – which is to say, do they evolve and grow as circumstances change, or are they a mere snapshot of what you once were?

The challenge around reviving a brand or market position is not so much a revision or reiteration of the words and phrases that describe the brand. Rather, it is the imperative to reconnect every person in the organization and what they do with the true meaning of the venture – its core purpose, mission, vision, and the promises it makes to its constituents. The outcome of that exercise may very well be a complete revision of the brand promise, mission and vision.

But at the outset, put aside completely the fixation on the words. Rather, work to guide individual employees to rediscover and rebuild their confidence in what the company and the brand signify, thereby reaffirming the brand promise. Assure their focus is on continuing to deliver on the promise that the brand represents so that customer experiences reaffirm it.

For additional insights into this challenge and opportunity, see our recent whitepaper, “Is Your Brand/Organization Being Marginalized?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently finished the Great Wall Marathon in China – my fifth marathon on my fifth continent with a goal to running a marathon on all 7 continents. Running for almost 7 hours, a lot goes through your head. There are some obvious parallels between my professional life as a WCG client partner across multiple pharma clients and international endurance running. Here are 4 things I thought about this time while I was running that I have continued to think about while sitting back at my desk this week:

Goal setting
Goal setting is key to how you define success and how you adapt over the course of the run. Do I want to take it easy and enjoy the scenery? Do I want to cross the line with my friends? Do I want to try to run a personal best (the coveted “PB”)? Do I just want to get it done so my toenails don’t fall off? The truth is that what mattered at the start of the run (getting a PB) changed by the end (enjoy the scenery). Just getting it done wasn’t reward enough…getting it done in a way it was meaningful to me was.

Business Translation: Know client goals and check in throughout a project as the goals may change without you or the client articulating them clearly.

Carrying other people
I ran 10km with a struggling friend. In the end, I had to decide if helping him across the line was worth the energy it was costing me to slow my pace and cheer him on. In this instance, I stayed with him and he ended up cheering me on (by singing U2 Beautiful Day) when I needed it later. But in other instances I’ve had to wish a fellow runner good luck as we each trudged on alone. There is often a lot of discussion around leaders “carrying the field”. Leaders push the field and bring people with them as they stride along tackling terrains, pushing the pace and providing motivation. But carrying people can also slow a leader down, drain them of valuable energy, and cause resentment both by the carrier and the carriee (pull your own weight/stop pushing me). True leaders think about their goals (sometimes carrying someone is the goal) and make the critical decision about when to let go. Everyone needs to learn to run their own race and be given the space to do it.

Business Translation: Pay attention to which of your colleagues and clients are paced with you and of which you need to let go in order to foster leadership in them and ensure you maintain energy to pursue your leadership goals.

Making yourself feel normal
For 99% of people, running a marathon (let alone one with 5,164 vertical steps) is crazy. They’re supportive, but affectionately shake their heads. Post-marathon, while rubbing aching calves and icing knees, there is always the enthusiastic next challenge discussion where someone says, “Isn’t it great to be amongst people that make you feel normal? At home we are marathon freaks, but here we just feed each other’s addiction!” It isn’t just about surrounding yourself with more adventurous people that you can learn from (who knew there was a 5-day survival marathon in the Amazon?!), but also surrounding yourself with like-minded people. They don’t have to be in the same discipline (ultra-marathoners, iron man triathletes and mountain climbers, oh my!) as cross-functional learning is often illuminating.

Business Translation: Find people whose outlook is similar in how to assess a challenge, invest in preparation, get it done and value the same goals in the process. So in your teams and with your clients, while you are each working alone, you are fostering a best practices in multiple formats.

Thinking global
The Great Wall Marathon has a total vertical of 4,000 feet (there were several long, steep brutal inclines). On more than one occasion, and sometimes every time I passed a kilometer marker, I asked myself, “WHY are you doing this?! You could have at least run a flat marathon!” To which I answer myself, “But look at the view and what you already achieved…Be stubborn. Be epic.” While the challenge to run 42km pushes physical comfort zones, the scenery of a foreign culture provides a welcome distraction from aching hamstrings. Each marathon is different (London – classic road run, Greenland – glacier run, Antarctica – extreme cold run, Victoria Falls – extreme heat run), but collectively prepare me for the next…the basics of marathon running remain the same, but are applied uniquely to get across the line with a different view for each achievement.

Business Translation: Think laterally when thinking globally. When we narrowly focus on the differences between client challenges, whether industry or geographic, we can miss the opportunity to leverage lateral solutions with unique perspectives in order to expand solutions globally and achieve epic programs.

As for me, I have 2 continents left on which to run marathons (Amazon jungle here I come!). My goal is to enjoy the places I have gotten to run and the thinking I do while ticking off the miles. I am looking forward to being both personally and professionally inspired by marathon leaders. And I am going to continue to build a network of marathon freaks to feed my addictive passion. All while drawing analogies to help me be a better runner, leader and person.

It’s a good time to be a patient. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks as I’ve read story after story about patient empowerment, patient technology and, most inspiring to me, patient persistence.

I admit that we still have plenty of challenges and imperfections in health, especially in the United States. The elephants in the room – access, cost, reduced research funding – have all gotten bigger, and they may soon sit on the gains made on behalf of patients everywhere. But for now, I’m optimistic that patients won’t allow these challenges to stop them.

Here are four reasons why patients should be hopeful, and why physicians, health companies and regulatory agencies are adapting and growing to meet their needs:

  1. The FDA has a patient web site: Haven’t heard of it? It’s called simply the Patient Network. Launched last week, it offers patients and caregivers a simple, navigable tool to have their voices heard and questions answered. In the past, the only patient outreach I’d seen from FDA was allowing patients to comment at advisory committee meetings. This is a big step forward. The proof will be in how FDA engages patients, and if it can expand this content onto the social media channels patients are already using.
  2. Roni Zeiger wants to combine a clinical trials search engine with social networking for cancer. It’s like Google getting together with the ClinicalTrials.Gov and the best cancer patient forums out there: Haven’t heard of Romi Zeiger? I hadn’t either. Romi was the chief health strategist at Google. Now he’s working to create Smart Patients, a web site that will let cancer patients and caregivers – already extremely knowledgeable about their disease and treatment – learn from each other and let the healthcare system learn from them. The idea is exciting and has people talking. It’s made even more exciting by the fact that Zeiger’s co-founder created the Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR). Haven’t heard of ACOR? It’s one of the most widely used patient e-mail listservs for all kinds of cancers, allowing patients to share tips about treatments and ask questions about anything on their minds when it comes to cancer.
  3. Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann wants physicians to let patients make their job better: Dr. Desmond-Hellmann is Chancellor at the University of San Francisco California School of Medicine. She knows physicians are under tremendous pressure and that the health care system is “stressing out the very people we need the most from.” To solve it, she says patient advocates can help expand access to medicines, and that “important, transformative things happen only because patient advocates and patients had a seat at the table.” But even if patients have a seat at the table, it’s not enough. She says patients have to drive their care and create a new social contract where patients supply big data for the greater good. It’s a tall order and may take time, but this social contract could offer something game-changing in how patients are cared for. Take the time to watch her TEDMED talk. You’ll be glad you did.
  4. Natalie Stack’s wish is close to coming true. She has her parents and committed researchers to thank: The New York Times has the inspiring story of Natalie Stack. When she was 12, Natalie’s birthday wish was for her disease to vanish. Ten years after making the wish, she’s still alive. Natalie’s parents started a foundation to develop a new medicine for nephropathic cystinosis, a rare genetic disease that, if untreated, typically destroys the kidneys after only ten years. Even a kidney transplant may not help, and the disease is often fatal. Just last week, the FDA approved this new treatment, showing what’s possible when patients and caregivers don’t give up on progress. There will certainly be challenges over the cost of the drug, but the progress deserves to be recognized.

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BVJagx0Py_w[/youtube]