3 Simple Words to Revolutionize the World

2.5 weeks til the magic of BIF2015.  I am blessed with the gift of my network and can't wait to see my students and clients and friends and friends-to-be. Thank you Nicha Ratana-Apiromyakij & Saul Kaplan for this honor from TIME magazine. 

"How many people end business meetings with an “I love you” and a hug? Venture capitalist and former AT&T Labs scientist Deb Mills-Scofield does.  To Mills-Scofield, to do business is to negotiate diverse personalities to get things done — and she has the gift for it. “The broader, deeper, and more diverse your network, the bigger the impact you can make on the world,” she says." Read on...

Savory Tales of Connection

 

 Fried Twitter Tales is a collection of stories on the WHY of twitter by some amazing people and I got to be included! Honored! The story that Vala Afshar and I love about twitter, the network and making amazing things happen (like CCChampions & the Celtics) is the first story.  So please download this free e-book, read it, share it and build relationships with amazing people. 

 

Some Stories Need Retelling

With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought this was a story worth retelling - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and a new year ahead.  I am continually overwhelmed with the blessings in my life and this remains one of the most powerful in my entire career - thanks to Vala Afshar & Sidney Kushner
 

The Power of Your Network is the "Ask"

Originally published in Harvard Business Review, this post needs to be reread since my friend Vala Afshar will be a storyteller at BIF10 and Sidney Kushner will be attending - in just two weeks!  
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One of the biggest assets in anyone’s life is a generous network. It is a gift that grows simply by sharing it. Think of it as the Law of Accelerating Returns — the more you share your network, the more people share it in return and the more the rate of sharing accelerates. For me, my network has literally and figuratively been a source of survival. For most of us, networks have played a critical role in our lives, whether we realize it or not.

I asked executive and super-networker Vala Afshar if he thought there were any common traits or patterns that could be ‘taught’ or encouraged for networking.  We came up with a few unsubstantiated traits based on the people we know who are great connectors: 1) hard working (it does take work to network); 2) humble (now that’s pretty arrogant of me to say!); 3) quietly confident that connecting the people they introduce will result in something great even if it’s not yet clear; and, perhaps most importantly 4) who understand the power of the ask. For instance, Vala remembers arriving in America at age 10, escaping the 1979 Iranian Revolution not knowing any English, not blond and blue-eyed, and not stylishly clad. He also remembers the very few kids who overcame their shyness to ask him to play kickball — and how happy he was to be asked.

Too many of us worry that asking will appear self-serving, even if it’s not. We fear rejection. We fear looking stupid. Perhaps some of us actually fear hearing a “yes” — what would we do then? It’s tempting to say that asking takes courage. But really, think about it — what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll hear a “no.” No one’s going to throw you in jail. Let me share a brief story about a couple of normal (well, in their eyes) people and a kid to illustrate the Power of the Ask.

I first met Vala, CMO and CXO at New Hampshire-based Enterasys, now Extreme Networks, on twitter and reached out to him, since his tweets seemed so spot-on to me. We conversed over email and twitter, sharing stories of our jobs and of eating lobster, which we both love. We met last September on my way up to Maine for my annual vacation. I was greeted at Enterasys’s headquarters like a long-lost relative — even including an epicurean delight of lobster salad*. Needless to say, we really hit it off. I also learned that Enterasys provides network services to companies like the New England Patriots and the Boston Celtics.

Meanwhile, one of my mentees, Sidney Kushner**, has been creating CCChampions, an organization that creates connections between professional athletes and children with cancer to provide a source of inspiration and excitement during a very trying time in children’s lives. To date, CCChampions is working with over 6,000 professional athletes plus health care professionals, child psychologists, local students and community partners. Sidney’s compassion, drive and entrepreneurial savvy are contagious.

But let’s face it — Providence, RI, where Sidney lives, is not exactly a professional sports powerhouse. Yet Boston is nearby! So, sucking up courage, I ask Vala if he’d talk to Sidney and, if willing, then introduce Sidney to the Celtics. What’s the worst Vala could say? No. And I’d perhaps look like a fool… but I’m very used to that. But Vala said that after about 5 minutes of talking to Sidney, he wanted help. Still, since the Celtics were a fairly new client, Vala was a bit nervous about making the ask. Nevertheless, he did, and a 30-minute discussion ensued in which the Celtics offered to honor Sidney as part of their Heroes Among Us program at their January 9th game in a special in-game presentation. Vala said he had goosebumps and when he told me, I certainly did. When the Celtics called Sidney, he was speechless — all he could do was text me, not even talk.

On January 9, 2013, because Sidney will be honored on the famous parquet floor of TD Garden, more kids suffering with cancer will have an opportunity for joy, inspiration and valuable distraction from their pain. As parents, both Vala and I can only imagine what this would mean to our children.

And let’s face it, Vala and I have gotten great great joy from bringing Sidney and the Celtics together — beyondSidney and KJ (an 11 kid with cancer) are high-fiving on center court as CCChampions got honored as a "Hero Among Us" by the Boston Celtics! expression, so perhaps it’s very selfish of us. And in the end, despite feeling awkward at certain moments, we really risked very little to help make this happen.

When we don’t use the “Power of the Ask” we are in essence saying “no” before the question has even been asked — saying no to opportunities that change our businesses, our organizations, ourselves…and actual lives. So even if it feels uncomfortable, look for even just a small way can you use the “Power of the Ask” in your network — for someone you work for, with or manage. Make this your year of the Law of Accelerating Returns.

*This feast has become an annual tradition and on Sept. 15, we will be celebrating our third year dining upon the epicurian delights of Chef Brian Townsend (aka Director of Global Technology Services & Operations at Extreme Networks)

**Sidney graduated from Brown in 2013 and CCChampions is having an impact beyond his dreams. I am also very honored to be on his board. 

3 Simple Words to Revolutionize the World

Wow! TIME magazine (online)!! Thank you Nicha Ratana-Apiromyakij & Saul Kaplan for this honor and story  about BIF10.  I am so privileged and blessed to be a part of BIF.

"How many people end business meetings with an “I love you” and a hug? Venture capitalist and former AT&T Labs scientist Deb Mills-Scofield does.  To Mills-Scofield, to do business is to negotiate diverse personalities to get things done — and she has the gift for it. “The broader, deeper, and more diverse your network, the bigger the impact you can make on the world,” she says." Read on...

Sign up ASAP for BIF10!!!

If You Haven’t Gone Social, You Should Be Very Very Worried

Mark Babbitt and Ted Coiné have written a book you MUST read, A World Gone Social, if you don’t want to fall prey to Darwin’s survival of the fittest.  Mark and Ted make it clear, with concrete examples, that the Social World’s implications for 21st Century business are enormous:

  • Customers have more power than they’ve had before; Settling for mediocre won’t work!
  • Employees have more power than they’ve had before; Their ideas and insights matter!
  • Command-and-Control is a delusion; Wake up and get flat(ter)!
  • Top talent chooses where it wants to go; Would you want to work for you?  
  • Transparency is a requirement and expectation; If you’ve got something to hide, forget it!

Transparency is foundational to me on at least 2 levels:

First, when information is open, available, accessible and shareable, awesome can happen.  Ted and Mark’s concept of OPEN: Ordinary People | Extraordinary Network gets right to this (Chapter 9). My life has always been about the network, so of course I’d love OPEN.  I measure my professional success by my ROImpact  - my form of ROI.  The broader, deeper and mover diverse your network, the larger the impact you can have.  Ted and Mark state “No matter who we are, the more OPEN we are, the more global our impact.”  OPEN is how we connect diverse expertise around the world to solve wicked problems. It’s how we democratize knowledge, access and opportunity.  OPEN truly makes the ordinary extraordinary – something each of us can do.

"No matter who we are, the more OPEN we are, the more global our impact."

Second, when everything is OPEN, walking the talk isn’t a cliché it’s a requirement.  Your products, services, customer support - all your interactions have to be consistent with who you say you are and what you say you stand for.  Does your organization really care about your customers? Does it truly want to understand their problems and create meaningful solutions? In A World Gone Social, it’s not about what you get (output), it’s about what you can give (outcome).  Some do this because they think it’s the route to success, which it is.  But those who cherish and relish giving do it because it’s a route to making the world a better place – from making it easier to get your prescription drugs or pick up the dry-cleaning to stopping malaria or providing emergency housing in natural disasters.  We may never know the fabulous outcomes of connecting people together, but we know fabulous things happen. 

Get A World Gone Social
Read it, mark it up, share it, give it away – but most importantly, live it! 

Create Your Own Luck

You know how much I believe in serendipity & random collisions (a la Saul Kaplan!).  Meet Samir Rath (bio below).  I met Samir when he was in the 2nd cohort of the IE-Brown E-MBA while simultaneously investing and starting companies all over the world, including Chile, because, doesn't everyone? Read Samir's thoughts on serendipity, luck and entrepreneurship - and join in!

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Innovation is serendipity, so you don't know what people will make.- Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web.

How often do we hear our friends and family say “Oh! She is so lucky. She moves in the right circles”. Or “He is so lucky. He is always at the right place at the right time”. Beyond the tinge of jealousy that such messages communicate, also hides a subtle ring of despair. May people feel that no matter how hard they work or how capable they are, their spate of bad luck just keeps messing things up.

Luck is nothing but an attitude. Richard Wiseman, the author of “The Luck Factor: The Scientific Study of the Lucky Mind”, defines luck as the outcome of how we deal with chance and that some people are just much better at it. ‘Unlucky’ people tend to be very apprehensive of the future, uncomfortable with change and want to control their circumstances. They tend to have set pre-defined expectations of how a situation should play out, often leading to disappointment. This is inevitable given how bad we are at predicting the future. ‘Lucky’ people, on the other hand, embrace the randomness of life with open arms and accept that change is the only constant in the equation of life. Serendipity becomes a way of life, with happenstance encounters evolving into friendships and business relationships. The ‘lucky’ ones make it much more likely that they will stumble on incredible events and be at the right place at the right time with the right people. Sometimes things work out.

Todd Kashdan, a psychologist at George Mason University, observes that getting lucky gets much harder as we get older and wiser, not because the game of life has changed but rather because how we play the game has. We get wiser with age and armed with experience, we form very strong convictions on how the world works. This applies to companies too. AT&T, which traces its origins to original Bell Telephone Company, could not anticipate a change in behavior, blinded in part by its domain expertise in telecom infrastructure. A young startup, Whatsapp, figured out that we have changed the way we communicate and want to share images, video and audio media over the internet across multiple platforms. At the start of the year, Whatsapp had more than 450 million users, all built and supported with a team of just 32 engineers.

We will be engineering some serendipity for the launch of our forthcoming book No Startup Hipsters. With the common thread of building technology companies that focus on real problems, we will be connecting tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, investors and enablers. Each person would login through a social network and a twitter style 140 characters description of what they are working on. Curated profiles from across the globe will quickly zip by in a “hot or not” style and when both sides choose to connect - Boom!. So, come create some luck by signing up at ThunderClap and get the book for free too.

SAMIR RATH is a financial technology entrepreneur and angel investor working with technology startups globally from over 20 countries. He helped build the Asian operations of GETCO LLC, one of the worlds largest trading technology firms, listed on New York Stock Exchange today as KCG. He began his career as a Macroeconomist for the Monetary Authority of Singapore. He is the co-author of a forthcoming book titled "No Startup Hipsters - Build Scalable Technology Companies”. [www.nostartuphipsters.com]. Twitter: @Samir_Rath

Intangible Benefit of Networking

So honored to co-author a post in Switch and Shift with my friend Vala Afshar - What is the benefit of networking? It may surprise you

"We are both pretty passionate about networking.  Being insatiably curious, we love meeting new people from different backgrounds with different experiences, viewpoints, and stories.  Throughout our individual careers, we’ve seen how networking is a means of learning and growing, both personally and professionally."  Continue reading....

Insatiably Curious with Infinite Pie

Thanks to an introduction by Dorie Clark, I met Alan Fawcett which led to this very fun interview on Infinite Pie(great name).  Give a listen and laugh along (and hopefully learn a little)...

"From the moment I started speaking with Deborah Mills-Scofield I could hear her passion and enthusiasm for the things we were about to discuss, and we certainly discuss a lot.  Deb describes herself as insatiably curious and addicted to learning, and I can see why.  We talk about her love for books and reading, her time at Brown University (past and present), cognitive science, learning and development, and management principle, and how they can all be applied personally and professionally...There are many lessons throughout this conversation.  Of course there is ‘what’ Deb shares, but as importantly there is ‘the way’ that Deb shares them."

How Networking Can Become Your Competitive Advantage

Many thanks to my good friend Dorie Clark on chatting with me for her Forbes blog!  Dorie is a wise woman and being able to share her platform is quite an honor!  So, read it here (follow her at @dorieclark and read her book!

"Would you like to add Richard Branson to your network? How about Larry Page, or Sheryl Sandberg, or Marc Andreessen? That’d be great, of course, but innovation expert Deb Mills-Scofield says connecting with a big name may not be as helpful as you’d think. If you really want to learn from your network and use it to spark new ideas, you may be better off looking at the periphery..."


7 Ways to Remain Relevant & Deliver Value

So many incredible thanks to Vala Afshar for a great Huffington Post piece about my guest appearance last Friday, November 8th, for CXO Talk! As usual, it's so much fun to 'hang' with Vala and Mike mixing profound insights with laughter. Here's Vala's view of our episode.
 

 

America's Future is #RCUS

After every BIF, we always wonder if it can get any better and each year is as unique and powerful as the one before. This is a testimony to the human spirit. The media tells us everything that's wrong in the world but it's Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects (#RCUS) that show us otherwise.  This year, I had the honor of being a story-teller and can attest to the optimism and realistic hope.

Our hope for the future is based in #RCUS.  The more #RCUS, the more we meet people with whom we create powerful positive solutions to our world's wicked problems. #RCUS inspires and transforms our world in ways we may know now, later or may not ever realize.  Here are a few BIF9 Storytellers who inspired me.