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Channels of communication

Started thinking about the different communications channels we all use, and how well they really reach people? And not only that; how well they really achieve the end goal of facilitating good communication and actually getting a meaningful exchange going between people?

I have most of my communication channels listed here in the contact section:

http://tane.li/contact

Today I was away from email for most of the day, just a normal 8 hour work day. Meanwhile: 100 unread emails keep piling up. I also use about 11 different email accounts that all come to the same reader.

The point being: email is pretty much destroyed as a communication tool by overuse and spam. People email each other carelessly. They email too long texts that are not summarized. They abuse all sorts of mailing lists. They also email half-finished thoughts and raw mindflow that's painful to read through waiting for the actual point or call to action to appear somewhere in there. They don't consider who really needs to receive that message in the first place. They don't consider is it going to be a meaningful exchange between the sender and receiver - they just fire away something half-baked. Also one common challenge is emailing people something that asks too much of them. Too much attention, too much time, too much consideration. Like emailing them an entire book as an attachment and asking the receiver to read it and summarize it.

People also abuse the expectations and time frames of email communication: emailing each other something and expecting an immediate reaction as the reply - almost as if they had just talked with the person over the phone. Cannot do that with email. It's asymmetric communication and you should treat and expect it as such. It helps significantly if the email is short, summarized, very clear and has an indication of when a reply is expected. Without this clarity and focus emails are a massive negative time sink that just end up frustrating you and wasting everybody's time.

How are the other channels working then?

The phone: often busy with actual work and no time to answer it. I don't have a voice mail service, because I hate using one and it would just be unfair to other people who would try leaving messages there. So; doesn't work too well at all.

SMS then: works a lot better. The receiver is in control of when to read it. And the messages are never too long.

Skype: never online. When I am, it sort of works OK.

Google chat: same thing as Skype

Facebook chat: I have disabled this. Way too much spam and chatter of the interrupting kind.

Facebook messages: don't quite work, slow to reply. Reason: too much spam. (Same as email)

LinkedIN messages: don't quite work, slow to reply. Reason: too much spam again.

Private message in Twitter: works extremely well! Can only be 140 characters; so it's laser sharp and never too long. Don't get that many of them, so it's easy and fast to reply. There's very little spam in Twitter, which is great.

==

Perhaps somebody should create an email service that can only send and receive emails of up to 200 characters. That could make it bearable and usable. Or would it?

How do you relate to your communication channels? Which one functions the best? Which ones don't work?

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Recent TV stuff, fail day and 2012 with sir Richard Branson

It has been an active start of the autumn with several interviews and things going on; more on video than usual.

On 13th of October 2011 Finland is celebrating our second annual national fail day - a bold attempt to influence culture and attitudes. Trying to suggest that Finns could recheck the negative attitude towards risk and failure - and view the whole topic with a more intelligent angle.

"Success is inspirational - failure is educational." (quote from Prof. Mike Shaner).

You can find more about fail day in finnish from here:

www.epaonnistumisenpaiva.fi

And here's my fail day video in Finnish:

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) also showed the video on their morningTV segment and interviewed mr. Petri Vilén on the phone. That's here (in finnish again, sorry folks):

The very next day I was also on MTV3 channel "Good Morning Finland" program again, this time talking about the upcoming changes with Facebook. In finnish again, video here:

Next year I will also be one of the people on stage in the Nordic Business Forum 2012 with sir Richard Branson and big names from Finland and abroad. They released the "teaser trailer" for the event yesterday on Youtube, it's here (in english):

Plenty more interesting things to come this autumn I hope! I have been mostly busy with developing Soprano Brain Alliance forward (we are still hiring, big time, btw). And working with a few startups on the side, as a kind of a hobby. Keeping it busy with mostly very positive things!

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Social media cases

I have been using a few social media examples in my talks semi-frequently during the past year or so. Many blogs have written such lists of good showcases, so I decided to copycat the fad and share a list of stuff I am using from time to time.

Here it is then;

1) a book that explains the longer term strategic meaning of social media nicely, by Prof. C.K. Prahalad and Prof Venkat Ramaswamy

http://www.amazon.com/Future-Competition-Co-Creating-Unique-Customers/dp...

http://www.dancewithshadows.com/books/future-of-competition.asp

2) data about how brand engage their audiences:

http://www.engagementdb.com

http://www.slideshare.net/PingElizabeth/engagementdb-social-media-engage...

3) BestBuy, and especially their Twelp Force:

http://twitter.com/twelpforce

http://techcrunch.com/2009/07/21/best-buy-goes-all-twitter-crazy-with-tw...

4) Swedish state owned broadcasting company's campaign for paying your broadcasting fee:

http://www.tackfilm.se/version/

5) Prototype the experience; a cool video advert for a game that sucks your Facebook info right into it:

http://www.prototype-experience.com/

6) Journalists immersed into Discovery Channel's Shark Week -campaign, in a rather macabre manner:

http://www.movieline.com/2009/07/scores-of-journalists-killed-in-shark-w...

7) The Old Spice commercials and their rock star brand spokesperson on Twitter, Yahoo and others:

http://www.youtube.com/user/OldSpice

http://www.oldspice.com/videos/

8) SSI Shredding Systems, and their videos of sweet destruction:

http://www.ssiworld.com/watch/

9) Greg the Architect. Or how to turn a deadly-boring topic (SOA) into something interesting:

http://www.gregthearchitect.com/

10) "Why so serious?" an epic campaign for the Dark Knight movie (Wonder what they'll do for the upcoming film "the Dark Knight Rises" ? something pretty glorious, I'm sure)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpuC7HhCPWA

11) IRC-Galleria and the finnish airforce in 2006! This is one of the weirdest combinations of the time and amounted for quite bit of media attention:

http://www.digitoday.fi/tyo-ja-ura/2006/12/18/ilmavoimat-varvaa-lentajia... galleriassa/200623767/66

12) The tough competition: Youtube and funny kitten videos. This one has so much viewers it dwarfs the population of Scandinavia already:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Bmhjf0rKe8

and it's long tail:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RJ5KJyUVwc

13) Lord of the rings creation through the 3 movies; by involving their fans in the creative process (also check out: wreckamovie, naturally)

http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/1179.imc

14) masters of social media attention; Varusteleka and their net store. One of the best examples of Social Media usage in an enterprise in all of Finland. Brilliantly done!:

http://www.varusteleka.fi

15) The social media 2011 video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SuNx0UrnEo

..Naturally I have plenty more cases I typically go through, but these are some of the informative and juicy ones.

Know better ones? Feel free to share!

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Professional board member work is now illegal in Finland

Finland has seen the rise of very positive new breed of business accelerators in recent years. They are called professional board members. Many of them are also angel investors and experts in various topics like law, business, internationalization, finance, technology etc. Professionalism towards Board of Directors work has been a much welcomed change into the old culture where only founders/owners of the company used to occupy board seats, entirely despite of their competence in actual board work. Finland has benefited tremendously from this new level of professionalism; networks, specific expertise in advising growth, finding funding, providing valuable insight, advice, mentorship, sparring and acting as a credible list of known names that back the company up by being members of its board (which is legally liable if the company behaves badly, mind you). Countless growing companies have benefited from these board professional experts who make it their professional competence to really excel in responsibility carrying, decision making and strategic level board work.

The basic business of a professional board member has up until now gone as follows:

A professional board member, or a group of them, establishes a company, often a limited liability company. Then the company offers its employees (the board pros) to startups and other firms as professional board members. The people sit on the board of directors, carry on the legal responsibilities associated with board work, and help the company in a multitude of ways; often relating to their own specific field of expertise. Many companies have had more than one professional board member contributing throughout the years. They also often do assignments for the company outside the scope of normal board work: like for example work extensively on the company's sales, technology, financing plans or other such major engagements that might often result in weeks of work. I have even seen board professionals who work on jointly creating marketing materials for the company, or participate in trade shows and conferences for the company in other countries etc. Often also this is done together with business angel activities: investing into the very same companies that then become clients to professional board member services.

Naturally this is also something that the Vigo accelerators often do: they invest into their portfolio company, and a manager from the accelerator team often takes up a board seat.

For all of this activity it has been the standard business model that the professional board member company sends an invoice (often a monthly invoice, or per project invoice) to the company it is helping, and this relationship has been quite similar to normal management consultant work - with the exception that the person is a member of the board of directors of the client company, and that the work is typically much more longer term and larger/wider (more strategic) in scope.

Naturally many VC funds and VC firms do this as well: they have venture managers, investment directors and partners who frequently sit at the boards of their portfolio companies - and just as frequently do more extensive projects for the companies and often mutually agree upon sending an invoice as compensation for their work to the company.

Well all of this is now illegal in Finland. Here's why:

Finland's Supreme Administrative Court in alliance and ruling based on advice from the Finnish tax authorities has made a very interesting recent ruling. It can be found here:

http://www.kho.fi/paatokset/54322.htm

From the case you can read between the lines that the "company X" they are talking about is in fact Capman, Plc. a VC firm listed in the NASDAQ OMX stock market.

This decision stacks on top of previous decisions made by the tax authorities, and now as combined to the previous decisions forms the final link in declaring all of professional board member work to be illegal.

Here's what the ruling means together with the old rulings and rules from recent years:

1) anything paid to the board member is considered as income, and under the income tax. This is despite the form of payment: even if you pay in stocks, in options, or in anything the result is the same; they are all considered income.

2) while the person is a board member he or she cannot do any consultancy work at all for the company: any such work cannot be invoiced from the company, it has to be paid as income instead (and taxed as direct income) - and this situation forms a temporary relationship of employment between the parties.

3) while the person is a board member the company cannot pay for or compensate in any way for any travel, flight tickets or such costs: these are also always considered income and in some cases this also can form a relationship of employment between the parties. The logic here however has been that since a board member is not a "normal" employee of the company; the company cannot pay him for travel costs. The tax authorities expect the board member to pay for all travel himself, or then pay income tax for all the travel cost the company pays for him. This changes if the board member is doing a consultancy assignment that is paid to him as regular income (thus forming an employment relationship) if this is the case then travel costs can be paid. But if there is no consultancy agreement, no income salary, just regular board work: then travel cannot be paid without avoiding this.

With that ruling they effective just ended professional board of directors work in Finland. A situation where a person is a member in, let's say, 8 different boards; all this becomes quite impossible. He would pay income tax from 8 different sources and would be frequently temporarily employed by all of those companies when ever there is a more time demanding task or any travel associated.

So now, all professional board members will either have to:

I) Resign their board assignments and become consultants. (my own tax advisor recommended to me that I should do this)

or

II) Become employees of the company they help and pay income tax from everything they do and get compensated for.

You cannot act as a professional, offering board member services and advice, and invoice for your services anymore. Not even if you are a partner in a VC firm and you sit on the board of your portolio company: even then you aren't allowed to do this.

For Vigo Accelerators this means that either;

a) their managers can't have board seats in portfolio companies at all.

b) or they will have to have separate roles; one
manager is a board member and is banned from doing any consultancy at all, while another manager does all the consultancy (the acceleration) without being a board member.

Or they can also, do c) act as up until now and pay huge amounts of income tax personally for accelerating all those startups.

That's how Finland encourages growth, entrepreneurship and economic success. What a wonderful climate to be in!

This is very very sad for Finnish growth companies.

This also pretty much kills the new breed of professional business accelerators from growing and rising any further: now that the whole practice is declared illegal and made totally idiotic in terms of taxation, now there won't be any more professional board members then... great.

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Fresh thoughts from Denmark's Monday Morning

I'm involved in Sitra's programme called "Elinvoima" and we recently visited Copenhagen, Denmark as a part of that. The Programme seeks to answer very important key questions in society like; what is "new work?" etc.

One of the interesting visits there was a Think Tank / Company called Monday Morning. They had some good fresh thoughts on how the welfare society in Denmark, and perhaps in Finland, could be developed towards something better. Here's a part of my take on that.

First off, they identified that a "new language" is needed in politics and in societal debate overall. They presented the following list:

10 IDEALS FOR POLITICAL COMMUNICATION

  1. Focus on the ball
  2. Respect disagreement
  3. Recognize change and development
  4. Be willing to explain and elaborate
  5. Separate what we know, what we believe, what we think
  6. Respect expert knowledge
  7. Put forward arguments
  8. Answer rebuttals and critical questions properly
  9. Present your point of view
  10. Engage the voters

(html formatting in this blog is crap, sorry about that)

In Finland we are pretty fraking far from these ideals in the level and quality of our political talk, as can be viewed here.

Focus on the ball: we just had parliamentary elections in Finland. Did anybody notice any of the parties really giving any detailed answers and plans on how we are going to create the required 200.000 entirely new jobs to support the current state services during the next 9 years? I didn't. Most of the focus went into vague political rhetoric about taxing "the rich" (who's that exactly in a country where the upper quadrant income is one of the most modest ones in the EU?) even more, and perhaps cutting way too little, way too late from government spending. And on speculation whether or not it would be beneficial for Finland to bail out Portugal (btw: to which my take is that there should not be government bailouts for anybody, for any reason, they distort more than they fix, and in this case it's about a transfer of income union from the producing countries to those that don't produce enough to cover what they spend).

Point number 5 is brilliant: separating what we know (for an objective fact), what we believe (our interpretation of reality), and what we think (our conclusions and projections of these facts and interpretations) would indeed be extremely useful. This is brilliant stuff. Similar communication is very useful if you are an executive, a startup CEO, scrum master, or anybody at all who needs to communicate between groups and teams of people who don't always observe the same facts and entirely agree on everything. This kind of 3 level separation gets people thinking more - and more than that, it gets them to commit to action more. It also facilitates learning.

For example: if a team of startup software engineers have just today somehow broken a product built that's due to ship tomorrow morning - what do you do as the manager? You can always go talk to them an offer your own conclusion right away, without explaining or separating any of your communication. Going there and ordering "you two, fix the broken build now!" will probably lead to some action; but how much did the team like this order? How much did they commit to that solution which was in fact your conclusion of the events and not theirs? Instead you could walk over and start with: "hi guys, my monitoring system there is telling me for a fact that the build is broken" and just pause. That might be the only thing you need to say: people with initiative will take it onwards from there and take care of it. They may even reply right away "yeah we know, it is already being fixed by Alberto there, while the rest of us figure out how we didn't catch that glitch in our tests". If the team waits for you to solve the issue for them, you can always challenge them a little more and continue with "I believe this is quite bad for us, as we are about to ship tomorrow morning. What are you planning to do about it?" and still at this point you have not offered your own conclusion to the team; they still get to form the conclusion and commit to resolving the issue themselves. You don't need to go as far as saying "I think you, Jenna, need to fix the build, while Alberto there gets me a cup of coffee", which would be you being a daft prick.

We see bad communication all the time in politics and certainly encounter it in management. Startup CEO's are no better; many of them are clueless on leadership and how to resolve team issues.

Monday Morning's 10 ideals in communication might as well be startup ideals in communication with the word "voters" replaced with "customers".

Another good sound bite from their list are numbers 7, 8 and 9; arguments and properly presented answers to critique.

I urge you very much to read through this list:

http://www.astunit.com/astrocrud/flaws.htm

It's an excellent list with 30 flaws in argumentation. Flaws like: error of fact, contradiction, deliberate distortion (or omission), irrelevant data, failure to specify, accepting hearsay as fact, wild speculation, non sequitur, argumentum ad hominem, appeal to widespread belief (non-fact), argument by analogy, appeal to authority etc..

Some of the names of flaws in argumentation are in latin; because the ancient Romans already in the days of Senatus Populusque Romanus taught argumentation in their highest educational level: the rhetoric school. One of the ancient leaders of this skill was Marcus Tullius Cicero. This art has been going downhill ever since; and is no longer taught in the Finnish school system at all. And thus we can observe the results of an entire nation who no longer knows how to form proper arguments..

How many of those flaws did you notice during the last electorial debate? I noticed all the ones I listed up there, many of them over and over again several times.

Why is it then that we are stuck with a shit-level of debate and populistic bullshit one-liners instead of actual intelligent political communication?

The answer might have something
to do with this. If people are so ignorant or fraked up in their brains that 69% of them can't even name the political parties in the cabinet correctly then you might think that perhaps we deserve this?

What about us other 31% that can name them, and actually have a clue about the surrounding reality then? Is it justified to lock us in here with folks to whom every day is a miracle as they somehow manage to survive it without accidentally suffocating on their own tongue?

Nah, people have the full right to be stupid and ignorant. We have to take responsibility in our actions as individuals ourselves; and if we are not happy with the situation we must work to change it. Being stupid, or being ignorant, is no reason to limit anybody's liberties and individual freedoms. Even if the person is so extremely stupid that he's a danger to himself. Not even then.

We can work towards these communication ideals. Let's hope they could someday shadow the real state of Finnish public debate.

---

Another suggestion by Monday Morning was;

We need a new mindset in society.

From To
Economic politics Innovation politics
Political reforms Organizational/institutional reforms
Public solutions Public-private partnerships
Extra hands New technology
Bureaucratic leadership Personal leadership
General solidarity Flexible solidarity
One-size-fits-all Customfit offers
Tax financed welfare Public-private financing
PUBLIC WELFARE CULTURE FLEXIBLE INNOVATION CULTURE

(this blog doesn't allow me to format a table with full html, sorry for the crappy looks of it).

Now some of this proposal is a bit too statist in my view.

Many of the most successful public-private partnerships have been the kind where the public (the state) understands to stay out of the way and let the private side and market mechanisms solve the common problem for us all. A public solution is often enough no solution at all. Government is monopoly by design and by fact; and is equally bad in serving its clients than any total monopoly is. This also applies to public-private partnerships.

At the current rate there's no change Finland could afford to maintain such massive welfare state services. Some people consider it to be "solidarity" to use force against other people and make them, whether they want to or not, by force, to help others. Using violence on others to force them to do charity against their will is not my idea of solidarity. The state should exists primarily for ensuring and guaranteeing individual liberties - which means guaranteeing very specifically that violence isn't used against anybody. A pacifistic world where the state guards its citizens against violence (even from the state itself, or from other states via defense forces) would be a much nicer place to live in than our current society, where too often people's rights and liberties are being trampled upon - often enough by the governments.

I often advocate personal responsibility in place of a forced non-optional collective responsibility (those kind often in fact become non-responsibilities as everybody resigns them; as in "I don't need to help the homeless, because the government does.. don't they have programs for that and shit?"). In Monday Morning's model this is perhaps the best part: championing for personal leadership, individual responsibility, and quite simply for being human. If you force people to do charity against their will; they are quite angry about it all the time. If they do the very same thing voluntarily they probably experience a great deal of personal reward, bliss and happiness from it. By forcing them, you take out the joy in giving. Think about that.

One of the central things on MM's model is flexibility: they have quite keenly realized that the world, day and age we live in can't continue in a happy state with the old slow moving non-flexible models. We need to be more like agile startups as a society: experimenting, failing fast, building models and structures that make us quick to adapt to change. Quick to reinvent and change ourselves, like Proteus of legend. Laying the foundations that allows us to weather an occasional tempest and stay firm in the mids of chaos and conflict.

Sense Amid Madness, Wit Amidst Folly.

Perhaps it would be time to abandon a lot of the old thinking and thought models in Finland as well? Perhaps take a few lessons from our Dane neighbors and see what as responsible individuals we could get done about the whole enchilada?

Or perhaps a better way to go about this entire thing would be to form a startup coutnry: www.seasteading.org is your answer there. The world needs startup nations and societies as much as it needs startup companies. Governments are monopolies, and the business of government is an entire industry with very little innovation and competition. We need Seasteads to offer us alternatives and come up with new models. That starts to have a great deal of appeal when you consider the alternative route of compromise upon compromise and slow incremental change.. doesn't it?

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