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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How Nelson Mandela Used Likeability To Succeed

IMB_nelsonmandelaJuly 18th isn't really a holiday all over the world, but perhaps it should be. It is the birthday of Nelson Mandela, and our team out of London is supporting an initiative to help this iconic South African leader get the recognition he deserves. So today, you can join people like Desmond Tutu, Eddie Izzard, and Jamie Oliver to make your own pledge for global good in the official pledge book.

Our team is also encouraging poeple worldwide to devote time (specifically 67 minutes in recognition of his 67 years of service) community service to pay tribute to the anti-aparthied icon. To help support the intiative (beyond taking the pledge), I thought I'd share an excerpt of Nelson Mandela from the Introduction of Likeonomics. When I first started to write a book about the power of likeability to inspire others, he was near the top of my list of people to write about. Once you read the story and see some of the wonderful work to support his recognition, I think you'll agree. He wasn't just a likeable and inspirational figure ... he truly changed the world around him.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
—Nelson Mandela

The first time I experienced the powerful influence of Nelson Mandela was from the front seat of a taxi cab riding down the streets of Jo’burg (as the locals call Johannesburg). Mandela’s picture was on billboards along the highway to the city even though he was no longer president of South Africa, and my driver was speaking about his influence and how he had inspired the nation. That story started nearly 20 years ago.

In 1993, tens of thousands of Afrikaners (white South Africans) were preparing for war. Three years earlier, a man named Nelson Mandela had been released after 27 years in prison. He was no hero to this group. They saw him as the founder of a terrorist organization who threatened their way of life and belonged in jail. They were ready to fight.

As reporter and biographer John Carlin wrote, that was the moment where Mandela began ‘‘the most unlikely exercise in political seduction ever undertaken.’’1 He invited the Afrikaners leaders over for tea and listened to their concerns. Then, he persuaded them to abandon their guns and violence. The battle never happened.

A year later, he was sworn in as president of South Africa and vowed to make reconciling the racial tension between whites and blacks his number-one priority. Somehow he had to overcome decades of hate and convince people ready to die for their causes to see one another as brothers. In one of his first acts as president,Mandela invited Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South Africa national rugby team (Springboks), to have tea with him. That afternoon he struck an alliance, asking Pienaar to help him turn rugby into a force for uniting all South Africans.

During the Rugby World Cup in 1995, Pienaars led the mostly white players of the Springbok team in singing an old song of black resistance, which was now the new national anthem, ‘‘Nkosi Sikelele Afrika’’ (‘‘God Bless Africa’’). It was a powerful demonstration that the players believed in having a united South Africa. Inspired, the team fought the odds and made it to the finals against New Zealand.

On June 24, 1995, minutes before the final match would start, Mandela went on the field in the middle of the stadium wearing his Springbok green shirt to wish Pienaar and the team good luck. The crowd, made up of mostly white South Africans, was stunned. For many years, that green shirt had been seen as a symbol of only white South Africa. For a black man to wear it was unheard of.

The crowd erupted in cheers of ‘‘Nel-son, Nel-son’’ and everyone across South Africa celebrated. Mandela would go on to lead the racial reconciliation both during his presidency, and then after as an ambassador to the world for South Africa. In 2004, the country was awarded the world’s largest stage to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It is now seen as a likely future Olympic destination, as well.

This story of South Africa’s triumph was chronicled by Carlin in his book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation. It was so powerful, it inspired the Academy Award–winning film Invictus by director Clint Eastwood.

Why People Believe in Likeability (and Why They Don’t)

The fate of South Africa is linked to the story of one man’s personal charm and likeability. This may seem like an extreme example. After all, not many people have the gift that Mandela has. Yet, his experience does explain the very fundamental role that likeability can take in inspiring belief and changing our world around us. People didn’t follow Mandela because of the ideas; they followed because of him. When he invited you over for tea and listened to your concerns, and then spoke, you couldn’t help trusting his vision.

Support the pledge here -

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dollar Shave Club Offers The Cure For Overmarketing

IMB_10bladerazorMy current razor has three blades, but I am sadly certain that at some point pretty soon that will seem laughably low. The razor blade wars have been around for years - but each year the battles continue with new "innovations." The Gillette Fusion Power razor, for example, now features an "onboard microchip" to help "regulate power." It's no wonder razor blades have been the butt of jokes for years now, but the problem generally has been that most guys just don't have a better or easier option.

Now there might be a solution - in a form of a new startup called the Dollar Shave Club.  Through a personality filled and fun video that has gone viral with over 5 million views over just 4 months (see below) , they introduce the idea of their new service and attempt to take on the BS-driven world of razor blade marketing with a big sense of humor, and an (apparently) better product and service as well. They start, as most great startups do, with a strong idea of their target audience and the problem they are solving:

1. Guys hate paying $20 or more for razor blades.
2. Guys think the overmarketing of razor blades is filled with BS.
3. Guys forget to buy razor blades all the time.
4. Guys like to laugh.

Based on these four simple facts, the Dollar Shave Club offers 3 razors, including their flagship Executive razor, which is described as "a personal assistant for your face" with a "shave is so buttery, it feels like you’re carving turns through a virgin Wyoming snowfall."


Entertaining writing aside, the site also starts with a video showing the personality of the company and founder, with a good dose of random humor in the form of a guy in a bear suit and a toddler shaving a guy's head while he reads (fittingly) The Lean Startup.

Put the pieces together and you have not only a great product idea to solve an actual need, but a brilliant example of just how powerful personality can be as a sales tool. I already ordered my new razor thanks solely to the power of the pitch ... and, of course, my secret ambition to one day have a personal assistant for my face.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Problem With Curiosity

Curiosity isn't just for cats or cartoon monkeys. In fact, it may be one of the most powerful marketing forces that exists in the world today (and one I even wrote a guide for using several years ago).  Thanks to a combination of our natural human urges and what constitutes a "breaking story" in today's media environment - curiosity has been taking on a whole new significance lately.

Today, for example, the two LEADING media stories that people can't stop sharing, tweeting and talking about both peak our curiosity through their irresistable uselessness:

Pandas On A Slide:

San Diego Sets Off All Their Fireworks Simultaneously:

Both of these reminded me of a moment last year when I took a screen grab of the homepage of Yahoo. The lead story featured a headline of just three words: "Squirrel Dodges Lamborghini." At the time I tweeted about it, and dared people not to click the link. Few people were able to resist - just to see what the video would show them.

This drive to "see what happens" has always been a natural human behaviour. The ancient Roman thinker Cicero talked about curiosity as a "passion for learning" - and the noted Harvard psychologist Robert White in the 1960s wrote a groundbreaking paper about this human need to learn, calling it our "urge towards competence." For thousands of years, curiosity has been associated with learning and intellect. The best scientists were always curious about the world around them, for example. But curiosity means something else today.

Curiosity has shifted from a need to learn into a need for simulation. The phrase "for curiosity's sake" is just one example of how we think about curiosity today. In 2009 a veteran journalist named Charles P. Pierce wrote a brilliantly satirical book called "Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A virtue In The Land of the Free" all about the glorification of ignorance in our culture. 

Just wanting to "see what happens" has led to voyeuristic shows about misbehaving housewives, 450 pound "biggest losers" and anyone's silliest home videos memorializing their stupidity in exchange for cash payouts. The annual "tradition" for the 4th of July includes the idiotically American spectacle of a hot dog eating contest. No wonder we love the pandas. But there's a lesson in this as well. Curiosity will continue to have a hold on why people watch certain content and share it with others. In a world where there are more ways ot waste time than ever before, this new form of curiosity is likely here to stay.

The optimistic hope in this is that maybe over time we'll learn that "just seeing what happens" may actually become a legitimate form of learning as well. After all, you never know when you might need to dodge a Lamborghini for yourself ... 

Friday, June 29, 2012

"Somebody I Used To Know" & The Co-Created Future Of Musical Storytelling

IMB_Gotye_SomebodyIusedToKnowThe moment in 1981 when MTV officially launched its music channel by airing The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star" was a big moment in the history of music. While it may not have been the first moment when videos were merged with music, it was certainly one of the most powerful. All of a sudden you could not only experience a song and how it made you feel, you could also SEE an interpretation of what the songwriter actually meant.

At first this shift worried many music fans. After all, if you watched a video interpretation of a song, how could you really have the chance to interpret the song for yourself? As social media has grown over the past ten years, we have reached a point where an artist's interpretation of a song is only one possible alternative that fans of their music experience.

Through remakes, covers and mashup-style remixes ... individual content creators are all adding their own colors to the experience of a song as it is today. Perhaps no song illustrates this more powerfully than the "long tail" of interpretation that has accompanied Gotye's #1 chart topping single "Somebody That I Used To Know."

Looking at the evolution of the many different explorations of that song may offer a hint into the new impact that co-creation will likely have on how any of us experience music today and into the near future. To see what I mean, check out this series of embedded YouTube videos that all feature different takes on Gotye's song ... in descending order of YouTube views. 

As I watched them, my experience of the song itself started to evolve ... as it has for many others that I have seen covers and new versions for.  As this type of creation becomes easier (and more talented people start to do it), I wonder how much will this impact the experience any one of us have with the music we listen to?  

Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know (feat. Kimbra) -
Official video (262 Million+ Views)

Walk off the Earth - "Somebody I Used To Know" Cover
(122 Million+ Views)

GLEE - Full Performance of "Somebody That I Used To Know"
(16 Million+ Views)

The Key Of Awesome - WOTE Parody - Somebody That I Used To Know
(1.4 Million+ Views)

Mia Sings - "Somebody That I used to know!" - Gotye
(93,000+ Views)

Friday, June 22, 2012

10 Signs You May Have An Unhealthy Relationship With Social Media

IMB_TooMuchSocialMediaThere is a reason the word "pervasive" is often used right alongside social media. For many of us, the social channels we use to connect with others for personal or professional reasons are a big part of every day. But how much is too much? How do we know that we might be taking our enthusiasm for social media too far? Here's my slightly exaggerated (but mostly true) list of ten signs that you might just have an unhealthy relationship with social media in your life:

  1. You receive an audible alert on your phone anytime anything happens. When your mobile device chimes, beeps or chirps anytime someone follows, retweets, shares or comments on something - you are actively sabotaging your own ability to concentrate on anything. 
  2. Your business card says "guru" and you are NOT speaking about spirituality to large groups in India. I know what you're thinking, but I didn't write this one because I'm Indian ... :-) 
  3. You use social media terms as verbs. If you have ever said out loud, "I need to instagram that," then this point is about you. The moment you start using social media terms to replace verbs, it's the beginning of the end. 
  4. You believe there is nothing wrong with spllng wrds without vwls.  Sure, there's a 140 character limit, but it doesn't mean we need to commit "grammar gaffes" or unlearn everything we know about spelling, does it?
  5. You answer questions with "you should read my blog post about that." That's like when someone asks you what a word means and you tell them to look it up. Unless you're a high school English teacher, just answer the damn question. 
  6. You check your Klout score, um, ever. I don't think I really need an explanation for this one. 
  7. You are a "mayor" of anything. We all love recognition, but I think deep down if you are disciplined enough to always check into a particular location and do everything that's required to be a "mayor" on Foursquare ... you already know you have a problem. 
  8. You use the "like" button to make a statement. You don't always have to send flowers, but your friend just had their first baby ... the least you could do is take 3 seconds and write "congratulations" into a comment.
  9. You use social media as a justification for being unreasonable.  Yes, there are people who demand a hotel upgrade or a discount because of their blog readership or Klout score.  You know who you are.
  10. You freaked out for 70 minutes while Twitter went down. Yesterday when Twitter went down, how much of an impact did it have on your life?

If you see yourself in any of these signs above, the antidote is pretty simple ... switch off. Leave the phone off and close the laptop - go outside, talk to your kids and just find a moment to enjoy human interaction. After you go and tweet this blog post to all your folllowers, of course.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How To Save San Francisco With Puppies

In entrepreneurship courses around the world one of the first things that they teach you is to find a problem that your business can solve. We all have problems, so there should be plenty of inspiration. And no doubt, there are many successful businesses that start with this simple question in mind. But how often do they ask if the problems they are solving are big enough?

IMB_how-puppies-can-save-san-franciscoThis weekend I read an article about a fascinating experiment in San Francisco to get panhandlers off the street.  The city is offering a stipend to panhandlers in exchange for them adopting puppies/dogs and providing a home for them. Not only do the dogs get homes and get off the streets (and avoiding the kennel or worse fates) ... but it also offers a unique chance for someone who is begging for money on the streets to reform their lives.

In the article, they feature a man who was formerly homeless and even after getting a home - was still struggling with isolation and depression. After getting a dog, he shared "I never go to bed by myself, and I never wake up by myself, it makes me walk with my head a little higher." He is a success story of the program.

Reading this, what problem do you think the program is solving? It's not panhandling. It's not homeless dogs in the city either. Instead, I think it is one of the world's most inventive ideas to reduce loneliness.

Some people end up living a certain way because they have lost hope in their lives. Their bigger problem is not financial, it is emotional.  They are lonely. Having a dog for companionship can help those people. Giving them $75 can help provide the incentive to make that happen. I don't know if giving dogs to panhandlers will ultimately get them off the street. And I know it is an easy idea to dismiss. But it is also a reminder: don't underestimate the unexpected things you can think of when you try to find a bigger problem to solve.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How To Interview Anyone: 5 Lessons From Amazing Interviewers

One of the most popular forms of content creation today is interviews ... but great interviews take a lot more than just coming up with a list of questions.  The sad fact is, not everyone who creates interviews to post online is actually good at doing them. So you might wonder, what do the people who ARE really good at it already know?

Over the last month I've done over 30 interviews as part of launching Likeonomics (that's more than one a day). Across that time, I've done everything from answering emailed questions to sitting in a broadcast TV studio. Apart from getting good at sharing soundbites, the last month has really given me an up close look at almost every style of interviewing you can imagine.

Through that time, there were a few interviews that really stood out - and five in particular which I have singled out and included in this article. Together they offer some valuable lessons for anyone who needs to produce and publish any kind of interview.

IMB-Anna-Farmery1. Prepare like a pro. (From: Anna Farmery)

Anna Farmery was an early influencer to get the book, and her Engaging Brand Podcast was one of the first interviews I did for the book. Within 30 seconds of starting the interview, it was clear that she had really read the book and thought about it (you would be amazed at how many interviewers don't). Her questions were fair, insightful and challenging in the right places.  Having her among the first helped prepare me for several of the interviews and questions I would get later during my media push for the book.  And the interview experience remains one of my favourites - all because she took the time to prepare like a pro.

2. Invent your own style. (From: Laura Fitton - aka "@pistachio")

IMB-Laura-FittonA recognized celebrity on Twitter, Laura Fitton (@pistachio) is an early pioneer of the "tweet chat" interview format - where she hosts an hour long conversation on Twitter (aggregated together with the hashtag #beonfire) where guests interact in 140 character bursts with a real time audience asking questions and making comments. It's a jarring experience because of the breakneck speed of questions and comments, but pretty soon you get used to the stream and realize how amazing a conversation you can have when you're forced into sharing soundbites, and without every saying anything verbally to anyone.

IMB-Katya-Andresen3. Add value to the interview. (From: Katya Andreson)

When Katya Andreson decided to feature Likeonomics on her very popular nonprofit marketing blog, she asked me to respond to a very pointed question about how nonprofits could use the ideas in Likeonomics. I shared two responses for truths that nonprofits should share and she used both in her blog post. It would have been easy to stop there - but she didn't. Instead, she added her own take, a few lines of commentary and then a link to a wonderful video to demonstrate the points we both had made in the post. That additional effort made the piece her own, and engaged her fans - all because she took the high road to add value to an interview instead of taking the lazier "cut and paste" route.

4. Dig deeper to get the full picture. (From: David Siteman Garland)

IMB-David-Siteman-GarlandNot many interviews challenge me to dig backwards into my past before I even imagined doing what I do now - and definitely no one got me to share the types of embarassing stories that David did ... but this is part of what has helped him to build an audience of more than 100,000 subscribers to his Rise To The Top "Non-boring" Podcast. He does an amazing job of establishing a rapport with his interviewee quickly and then asking deeper questions. Combined with a keen sense of what his audience of entrepreneurs really want to hear about, this makes his show and style a winner.

5. Work with the tools you have. (From: Sree Sreenivasan)

IMB-Sree-SreenivasanAfter participating in a seminar for about 75 students at the Columbia Journalism School, Sree Sreenivasan (Dean of Student Affairs) and I were walking towards the direction of his apartment in NY. During our walk, he pulled out his phone and started recording our talk. The "interview" features our unrehearsed conversation amidst the background sound of traffic (my rolling computer case along the sidewalk). Sree is an accomplished professor and journalist and teaches some of the most well known journalists in the world all about social media. If anyone knows about broadcast quality, it's him. Yet he's not afraid to just press the record button and walk down the street. It's the best proof that great interviews don't always require soundboards and mixers.

Do you produce your own content or have you had an interview with someone that really stood out?  Share your own tips about what makes a great interview or interviewer in a comment on this post!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Importance of Being Fearless

IMB_Case-Foundation-Be-Fearless-Logo2Most of us have a love affair with the big idea. We memorialize and romanticize it. We attend workshops or read books to learn how to come up with it. And the celebrate the achievements of anyone who has had one. Yet for all of our focus on this big idea, perhaps there is something even more fundamental that powers real world changing ideas.

The Case Foundation thinks so, and many of their peer foundations do as well. Foundations are one group that don't generally get recognized enough for the contributions they make to society. They give money and resources to the people and ideas that will change the world.  

As their newly launched campaign shows, many people all share the same essential philosophy when it comes to getting things done ... they are fearless. In the campaign, the Case Foundation creates an entire brand identity around this important ideal of being fearless and then shares that message through a website and downloadable PDF. There is even an online form where you can take the pledge to be fearless.


The graphics look amazing, the content is strong and the entire effort overall seems like a real life manifestation of what you imagine that Steve Case might tell you in a face to face pep talk if you were sitting in front of him and sharing your idea for impacting positive change in the world.

A vision like this brings people together and gives them a shared identity. It inspires the organizations who the Case Foundation provides funding to. And perhaps most importantly, reminding people of the importance of being fearless has one likely side effect ... they might just take your advice and then change the world.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

7 Useful Tips For How To Create A Really Great Corporate Event

Someone recently asked me to guess how many events I had spoken at in the last 3 years. I honestly can't remember ... and I'm not saying that to try and impress you. The fact is, in the last three years, I have participated in easily more than a hundred corporate events of all types. Some are internal seminars, while others are larger scale annual events or conferences. I've been invited to speak at everything from workshops for the military to networking events for young professionals. The topics for these events, also, have varied from the future of healthcare to how technology is bringing change to Africa to how to be more creative. 

The reason I am telling you any of this is because the idea of how to create an amazing event, no matter what industry or audience, is a topic I have spent A LOT of time thinking about. Today, I am proud to announce a partnership with an event called the Corporate Social Media Summit - where I will be taking over as Chairman of the summit. The event is coming up in just two weeks in New York - and routinely features an amazing list of corporate speakers and great content. This will also be  chance for me to work together with the conference team to collect some feedback and talk about how we might improve the event in future years. 


The week before that event, I am also co-hosting a unique launch event with a networking group based in DC called Cadre. The event will be the "official launch" for Likeonomics and feature a short TED-style talk by me, following by a unique panel discussion featuring 3 of the real people who I wrote about in Likeonomics. It is a chance to go inside the writing of the book, put a real face on some of the success stories in the book and also meet an amazing group of people in a great venue (the Arena Stage in downtown DC).


Both of these events, separated by only a week, offer the perfect chance for me to share some of the lessons that I've learned about what creating a really useful and engaging corporate event really takes. So here are my top seven tips for how to really create an amazingingly useful and engaging corporate event:

  1. Give people time to breathe. The most common mistake I see at event after event is overscheduling. Avoid that mistake by leaving in enough buffer between sessions, time for people to interact, and ask your speakers to deliver shorter/punchier presentations and talks.
  2. Hit the right balance of inspiration and practicality. There are not many speakers who can deliver both practical advice, and inspire a large group simultaneously. That is ok, though, as long as you think about speakers less in terms of their content (which is always important) and more in terms of the emotional state they will leave the audience with. The best events have both kinds of speakers. 
  3. Be VERY careful about letting sponsors speak. This is not a hard and fast rule, but generally the quality of a talk is inversely proportional to how much a speaker's organization has paid to sponsor your event. In other words, sponsors as speakers usually suck. But the real reason so many events allow this is because they haven't really thought through how to offer REAL value to sponsors, so they let them speak instead. Take the time to understand what your sponsors really care about, and then offer them more value without the speaking slot.
  4. Reconsider the temptation for multiple tracks. As your event grows in size, often organizers create different tracks for different topics. There is a reason that TED events don't do this. The real problem with splitting your audience is that people at the event no longer have a shared experience. There are plenty of events where multi-tracks work very well (particularly when you have very distinct audience segments with different needs), but think carefully about whether you really need to do this.
  5. Put your attendees on stage. I recently spoke at an event where an organization included "employee keynotes" as part of their program. At an event last year, any attendee was invited to submit an idea for a 7-minute "pecha kucha" style presentation. Efforts like these help shine a spotlight on attendees of an event, and dramatically increase the engagement from your audience because you are giving them to chance to share their point of view.
  6. Give people a useful framework for networking. Offering a "happy hour" at the close of a conference where you dump 100 people in a room is nice, but often the really valuable networking connections are really tough to make in that environment. Could you let people group together by interest, or use some sort of "smart badge" technology to let people more easily connect? The easier you make it for people to create real valuable connections, the more likely they are to get real value from the event.
  7. Make recapping the event easier. One of the facts of life about any corporate event is that not everyone gets to go. That means that almost everyone attending your event will need to produce some sort of recap of it for the rest of their team members who are back at home. For the last several years, I have produced a "top ten lessons" blog post for the Corporate Social Media Summit. It has been a great way of summarizing some lessons that anyone can take and repurpose for their own necessary job of recapping the conference to their own team members.

Any other tips that you have learned over the years that have helped in creating a really successful corporate event?  I'd love to hear them here!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Timing - The Most Creative Lunch In History


NOTE: This is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of my new book Likeonomics all about Timing, the 2nd principle of Likeonomics. I hope you enjoy it!

In 1855, a Scottish clergyman named James Gall had an idea that should have changed every map ever created, but didn’t. It was four years before Charles Darwin would publish his Origin of Species, and Gall was presenting his world-changing idea at a Glasgow meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The world he lived in had long since evolved from the point where people thought Earth was flat.

The most commonly used map of the time was known as the Mercator map and was originally developed to help sailors to navigate the ocean and reach their destinations. It had been used for hundreds of years. There was only one problem . . . it was wrong.  In taking a spherical globe and projecting it onto a flat piece of paper, the sizes of the landmasses were distorted. Greenland, for example, looked huge while Africa appeared much smaller. In reality, Africa’s landmass was nearly 13 times the size of Greenland:


Gall’s theory corrected this ‘‘projection problem’’ and adjusted the size of the landmasses—but it was too radical for his time. He and his map were widely ignored, and would be forgotten over the next thirty years. Then, in 1885, the first inaugural issue of The Scottish Geographical Magazine was set to be published. Resolved to give it one more try, Gall named his theory the ‘‘Gall Orthographic Projection’’ and wrote an article about it for the magazine (see Figure 8.1). When published, it unfortunately met with the same fate as before and was quickly dismissed.

What did a reverend from Scotland know of cartography anyway? Time and history would forget Gall and his map projection again—this time for nearly 100 years, until something interesting happened in 1974.

IMB_TimingArnoPetersThat year, a German historian named Arno Peters proposed an almost identical idea that he had developed independently without knowing of Gall’s work. His projected map, though, appeared to be nearly the same as Gall’s, and was based on similar calculations of longitude and latitude. Peters’ map (which he called the ‘‘Peters projection map’’) was introduced at a much different time in history.

In 1974, the world was consumed by the promise of racial and political equality. People had lived through two world wars, numerous revolutions, and race and gender rights were hot topics. The Peters projection map was seen to offer a symbol of hope and redemption for cultures around the world that had been colonized by Western nations

It became a symbol of the skewed worldview that many Western countries still held toward the rest of the developing world. It even found some advocates in the Western world itself. Over the next decade and a half, controversy and intense debate followed the map everywhere. The former Chancellor of West Germany

Willy Brandt used the map as a symbol of the equality of nations. The map was circulated among regional offices of the United Nations and other global organizations to be displayed on the wall. Gall’s original map idea, meanwhile, had resurfaced thanks to his published article, and cartographers started referring to the new combined map as the ‘‘Gall-Peters Projection map’’—the name it is known by today.

 Despite the controversy and political pressure keeping it from widespread adoption, the map has never really died. Over the three decades since it was introduced, the map has been featured in the American serial drama The West Wing and often used by military strategist Thomas Barnett on C-SPAN. In 1990 it even led a group of the most respected geographic organizations in the world to issue a recommendation to ‘‘strongly urge book and map publishers, the media and government agencies to cease using rectangular world maps for general purposes or artistic displays.’’

Today, while the Peters projection map is not considered the standard, it has been credited by academic and creator of The History of Cartography Project J. Brian Hartley with sparking the global debate around the political implications of maps and cartography. Gall, meanwhile, is only remembered ceremoniously in the merged name of the map. Why did two men with almost identical ideas have such differing levels of success when introducing their respective ideas to the world?

The reason Peters was able to succeed at getting worldwide recognition and inspire an international debate while Gall was largely forgotten is all about the importance of timing, and it explains a lot more than just the history of cartography.

The Most Creative Lunch in History

IMB_TimingPixarIn the fall of 1994, Microsoft was moments away from buying Pixar. Yes, you read that right. It was a year before the first Toy Story movie was released, and Pixar was bleeding money. Toy Story was running $6 million over budget and Steve Jobs had already put nearly $50 million of his own money into Pixar. It seemed like a lost cause. Desperate to salvage any part of his investment, Jobs had told his team to speak with any interested buyers.

Nathan Myhrvold was interested. As Microsoft’s technology evangelist, his job was to seek out new and promising technology. Pixar had something that easily fit the bill. In order to create the complex graphics required for their upcoming film, they had built an extremely advanced 3D graphic design software called PhotoRealistic RenderMan, or PRMan for short. PRMan was the perfect software to help Windows programs power higher end graphics, andMyhrvold was ready to sign a deal. As the Pixar team prepared for the meeting, they pulled together one of the first completed scenes from the yet-to-be-completed Toy Story film to share with Myhrvold as well. The scene was the march of the green army men and their rope drop from the second floor. The plan was to use this sneak peek as a chance to try and get Myhrvold interested in buying the studio arm of Pixar as well as the PRMan software. Unfortunately, he didn’t bite.

Filmmaking wasn’t really Microsoft’s core business. He just wanted PRMan. It was Jobs, however, who would pull back from the negotiations abruptly and decide not to sell anything. As Pixar employee Pam Kerwin would later recall, ‘‘Steve kind of jerked back because, I think,there was something visceral in him that said, ‘This is going to be really stupendous.’’’1

It turned out his instincts were right and Pixar would go on to become the most successful animated film company in history. What Jobs didn’t know was just a few months earlier, to plan for the future, the Pixar animation team had what may have been the most creative lunch in history.

Their animators were putting the finishing touches on Toy Story, and a small group including director John Lassiter and other creative team members were gathering to talk about what should come next. During that lunch, they came up with a list of new movie concepts that  would eventually inspire three more blockbuster Pixar films: A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., and WALL-E. Together, these films would gross $2.2 billion at the box office and be nominated for 15 Academy Awards. The story of the near death and meteoric rise of Pixar is a favorite of mine for several reasons. It includes everything from the triumph of creativity to the birth of an entire industry of computer-generated animation that would lead to some of the most entertaining films of the past two decades.

More than anything else, though, these stories always of the power of having the right timing. The inspiration for 10 years of filmmaking happened over a lunch meeting. The fleeting moment when a critical piece of Pixar was almost sold to Microsoft was also all about the pivotal timingof deciding to stay the course or sell the company.

Everything from finding the love of your life to launching the next world-changing startup comes down to having the right timing. Timing really is everything.

This excerpt is from Chapter 8 of Likeonomics, all about Timing - the fifth of the TRUST principle that I lay out in the book.  For a longer excerpt, please visit the book website at - and if you enjoyed the reading this, please consider buying Likeonomics today!